Showering During Power Outage


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Showering has become a such part of our modern everyday lives that we take it for granted. Not many people ever think about how the hot steaming shower is actually made possible.

If all of a sudden there is a possibility that the shower no longer works then we become to appreciate it again.

When connected to city water it is possible to shower during a power outage. Provided that you have a tank-style water heater and that the city pump station still has power. While the shower might work, in some cases it might be wise to use the remaining water for other uses.

There are many different combinations of systems how a hot shower reaches you.

Depending on which system you have will decide whether you can take a relaxing shower, or you if must wait until the power is restored.

By reading this article you will learn whether you can shower during a power outage, how long will the hot water last and how can you prepare before a power outage occurs.

What Is Needed for A Shower to Work

There are three components that go into a hot shower.

Both must be present in order for you to enjoy a relaxing shower. Depending on where you live those things will or will not be affected by power outages.

Water Flow

Of course, the water has to flow in order for you to have a shower 🙂 I know I am stating the obvious, but there can be multiple different ways water reaches you. I will quickly go through each so you can see which applies to you.

Depending on what makes the water flow will decide if your water will continue to flow even after the power has gone out.

Well Water

Well water is most common in rural areas where city water is not available.

In some places, both city & well water might be available but people might prefer well water since it is cheaper in most cases.

In fact, I have well water in my home, and I love how it can give you total independence from others. This is of course if you have a generator 🙂

When the power goes out the well pump will no longer work. This means you have only the water reserve that is in the pressure tank.

A pressure tank is designed to extend the life of the pump by reducing the cycles the pump turns on and off. Additionally, it will make the water pressure more consistent.

As a bonus, it will give you a little bit of emergency water after the power goes out.

Depending on the size of the tank you will have between 7 to 77 gallons of usable of water in the pressure tank.

Below is a small table to illustrate how much actual usable water is in a pressure tank, how many toilet flushes, and minutes of shower you can expect.

Tank Capacity (gallons)Usable water (gallons)Number of flushes (1.28 GPF)Minutes of Shower (2.1 GPM)
10753.5
2014117
50352717.5
80564428
110776038.5
  • GPH – Gallons per hour
  • GPF – Gallons per flush

As you can see with the larger tanks you have quite a bit of time before the tank is empty. Be aware that the last gallons in the tank will have lower and lower water pressure.

However, if you have a small pressure tank it is wise to avoid showering and conserve the water for more important tasks. Such as flushing the toilet and washing hands.

What to Do If You Experience Frequent Power Outages?

If you experience frequent power outages there are a couple of ways you could extend, or even completely restore your water supply.

Portable Generator To Power The Water Pump

This will give you the most autonomy. By using the generator to power the essential household electronics you can practically continue living on as nothing happened.

Before purchasing a generator be sure to check what voltage water pump you have. In North America, there are 110v and 240v variants.

Some generators supply both 110v and 240v however they are quite rare. I managed to find one dual voltage generator from amazon, it runs on both gasoline and propane.

That will give you extra flexibility in case of gas shortages in emergency situations.

It would be wise to figure out how to connect the water pump to the generator before the first storm cuts out the power.

Most water pumps are hardwired and cannot simply be plugged into the generator. This means that you have to install a transfer switch. A transfer switch will switch the house power from mains to generator. This should really be installed by a professional electrician.

However, if you are comfortable with working with electricity then I recommend this transfer switch (amazon link). This is an outdoor model and is perfect for installing right after your power meter.

This way you can set up the generator further from the house to avoid noise pollution.

If you know a big storm is coming, be sure to buy the generator well in advance since after the storm hits they will be most likely sold out.

Install A Larger Pressure Tank

This is probably the easiest and cheapest way to increase the amount of water you have after a power outage.

This is perfect for locations where there are frequent short power outages. Since the tank will eventually run dry it won’t help in long power outages.

80-gallon pressure tanks (amazon link) are quite affordable and can increase your water reserve by 42 gallons if compared with a 20-gallon tank.

(if you think the math is wrong check the table above)

Install A Water Storage Tank

If you live in a place where there temperatures are above freezing year round you could install a water storage tank on your roof.

This is by far the most complicated and expensive option of the three.

City Water in a House

The majority of houses in cities and suburbs have city water.

City water means that water is pumped to your house from a water source that could be miles away.

City water pump stations often have backup generators installed, so even if they also experience a power outage, water will continue to flow.

So if you have a local power outage, go see if the water is still running. If so then it will probably keep running since they have a different power supply than your house.

When compared to well water it might seem that city water is superior. Almost always it is.

However, well water has one major advantage. You can do something about it to make it work as we discussed above.

If you have city water and it stops working, there is nothing you can do. Well…of course, you could call and complain, but I doubt that would make any difference.

City Water in a Apartment

In an apartment that is up to 6 stories high, the situation is identical to a house with city water.

The city water pressure will be enough to pump water up to the apartments.

The shower will most likely work even when there is a power outage.

City Water in an high-rise

City water pressure is not enough to pump water past 6 floors.

On older high-rises, this was solved by installing a large storage tank on the roof.

However, there are multiple disadvantages to roof water storage tanks

  • Water must be pumped higher than needed
  • Top floor water pressure too high
  • Ground floor water pressure too high
  • Bacteria growth in the tank

This is why roof storage tanks are no longer used on modern buildings. They can be still found on old high-rises. There are thousands of roof storage tanks still used in New York today.

Modern high-rises use booster pumps to increase the city water pressure so that even the 50th floor could have sufficient water pressure.

On very tall buildings there are multiple booster pumps, each servicing a portion of the floors.

Whenever there is a power outage the booster pumps will stop working and the water will stop flowing.

All this talk how the systems work, but can I shower or not? 🙂

If you live in an older apartment building with more than 6 floors then most likely your shower will continue to work. Keep in mind the water capacity of the tank is limited and after a long power outage it will run out.

Modern high-rises have booster pumps and showers will not work when there is a power outage. (unless your building has a backup generator, but this is very rare)

Hot Water

The second component of whether a shower works during a power outage is hot water.

This is of course if you like your shower to be hot 🙂 There are many benefits to cold showers such as increased mood, waking you up, glowing hair and skin, etc.

Since taking cold showers is too extreme for most people I will let you know how long a shower you can expect after the power cuts out.

The duration of how long you can shower will depend on the size of your hot water tank.

Tankless Water Heaters During A Power Outage

Some water heaters do not have tanks at all, so-called tankless water heaters.

Related Article: Dangers of Tankless Water Heaters

Unfortunately, if you have a tankless water heater powered either by gas* or electricity then your hot water stops as soon as the power cuts.

*most tankless gas water heaters have an electronic controller that requires electricity.

This is a clear disadvantage of a tankless water heater. Otherwise, they are superior to conventional water heaters since they are more energy-efficient.

If you wish to learn more about tankless water heaters head to my previous article where I list 9 benefits of tankless water heaters.

Gas Water Heaters During A Power Outage

Most gas tank water heaters have piezo ignition, and no electronics whatsoever.

This is good news when it comes to showering during a power outage.

Piezo igniters are the same things that you find in lighters. By applying pressure to them they produce a spark and that, in turn, will ignite the gas.

Piezo ignited gas water heaters will continue to work during a power outage.

There is however a downside to piezo ignited water heaters. Since the flame must be ignited manually by pressing the piezo igniter the flame is always burning. This is called standing flame.

This will lead to energy waste. Especially during summertime when your AC will have to cool down the heat that is emitted from the standing flame.

This is why some new water heaters come with electronic ignition.

Since some areas regulate the energy efficiency of the water heaters and set standards that are impossible to meet with a conventional standing flame water heater.

This is good news for the environment, your wallet, and the polar bears, but not so good when it comes to showering during a power outage…

Electronic ignition gas water heaters have higher energy efficiency but will not work during a blackout.

If your water heater has electronic ignition then unfortunately you have only the hot water that is left in the tank.

Under the next heading, you can find a table to see how long you can enjoy a hot shower after the power has cut out.

Electric Water Heaters During A Power Outage

Since an electric water heater requires electricity to work after a blackout, you have only the hot water that is in the tank.

If you have a powerful generator you can still use it to power the water heater if you desire.

So…how long can you shower after the power outage?

This depends on the capacity of the tank and if the tank was full of hot water the moment the power outage occured.

How Long Will Hot Water Last Without Power

I have compiled a small table to illustrate how long hot water lasts after the power has cut out, depending on the size of the tank.

This is useful to divide up the shower time between family members. This way everyone gets to enjoy a hot shower.

Keep in mind that the tank loses some heat even if no hot water is used. So it is better to shower as soon as possible after the power outage to get the most out of it.

Tank CapacityMinutes Of Hot Shower
2016
3024
4033
5041
8065
10082
12098

Assuming:

  • Cold water inlet temperature: 44 °F or 7 °C
  • Shower temperature: 101 °F or 38.3 °C
  • Shower water flow 2.1 Gallons Per Minute

Drain

Believe it or not, some houses have drains that are powered by pumps.

This is because the septic tank is higher up than the drain pipes coming out from the house.

This is quite rare and is only used as a last resort, since the drain pumps tend to plug up and complicate the simple passive drain system.

If your house has a drain pump do not shower during a power outage!

There is a small tank located near or in the house that acts as a buffer, this will reduce the drain pump’s cycle time to extend the lifespan of the pump.

This tank can be used for a couple of toilet flushes after the power cuts out.

Don’t forget to store some candles and matches or a torch under your bathroom sink in case of power outages occurring halfway through your shower!

Conclusion

It’s always a drag when the power goes out, but most people can still enjoy a shower even if there is no electricity. City water and gas water heater will give you unlimited shower time, while well water and tankless water heater will give you 0 minutes of hot shower.

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Joonas

I like it when I'm able to fix everything that needs fixing around the house. In order to do that, I have to do a lot of research. This site will cover everything I learn and maybe help others do the same.

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