Should I Turn Off My Water Heater During A Power Outage?

An unforeseen event in your house can sometimes cause you to panic. Are you having frequent power outages and don't know whether you're supposed to turn off the water heater or not? Is it unsafe to mess with the water heater during a power issue?

Well, we've extensively researched these questions and have the answers below.

In general, you don't need to turn off your water heater unless you don't have power or use the water for more than 24 hours. If your power failure lasts longer than one full day, that's when we recommend finding the breaker and flipping your 'water heater' to the off position.

As we start this post, we will cover all things water heaters and discuss what to do during a power failure. Whether you're having problems, want to prepare for the worst, or have other related questions, we're here to lend a hand. With that said, let's dive right into this topic!

Do I Need To Shut Off My Water Heater During A Power Outage?

You usually won't need to shut off your water heater because of a power failure. However, doing this can become essential if the power or water is off for more than 24 hours.

According to experts, you want to turn off the water heater if the water is not running for more than 24 hours. Furthermore, you can find your breaker box and flip the water heater 'off.'

Man turning on the water heater

Luckily, most power outages won't last more than a few hours, but this can turn into days if there's a natural disaster or other serious problem.

Therefore, you want to locate your breaker, find the water heater switch, and turn it on or off, depending on what's happening. It's always best to be safe than find yourself in a helpless situation.

Will A Power Outage Negatively Affect My Water Heater?

No. Luckily, a power outage shouldn't negatively affect your water heater. When the outage happens, your major systems will turn off, just like if you flipped the switch on the breaker.

With that said, a sudden voltage surge can fry the water heater. Of course, if your breaker doesn't properly work, it's essential to ensure the electrical system in your home is in good shape.

If it doesn't, you can lose your water heater and potentially much more, so have your house inspected routinely. Even though electricity can be tricky to maneuver, it's better to schedule an appointment with an expert to prevent something catastrophic from happening.

Remember that if your home heating systems run on electricity, they will shut off if there's a power failure.

What Happens To Water Heaters When The Power Goes Out?

Since most modern water heaters hold between 40 and 50 gallons, in the event of a power failure, you should still have a bit of warm water until things are back up and running.

According to Any Hour Services, your electric water heater should keep your home running as usual for a few hours post-outage, so that isn't amazing news for more extended failures.

On the other hand, if your water heater is gas-powered, it won't turn off during a power outage. Moreover, a gas-powered water heater will work indefinitely, whether there's electricity or not.

Unfortunately, many homes have electric systems, so that might not be helpful to you.

Being without electricity for even a few hours can become a problem, especially for those with young kids or older family members. Even though colder water may sound minimal, a water heater is crucial for everyday things, like laundry, dishes, and comfort.

Do You Need To Reset A Water Heater After A Power Outage?

If your water heater doesn't automatically turn back on after a power failure, you may need to reset it. Luckily, this is pretty simple and should just require you to reset the thermostat on your system.

First, bring your water heater thermostat to zero. Next, wait a few minutes and take it to the desired temperature. Hopefully, this is all you need to do, and if not, you will need to call a professional.

As we said, a sudden voltage surge can fry your water heater, so that might be the cause if your system won't turn back on. Furthermore, you might need to wait until the electricity is back on and let your water heater reboot.

Will A Water Heater Explode During A Power Outage?

Plumber adjusting the hose of the water heater

Although most water heaters don't explode or pose any risk during a power outage, that's not to say it can't happen. According to experts, most water heater explosions are in gas systems, so electric models aren't usually at such a high risk.

However, a power outage or sudden loss of electricity won't typically affect a gas water heater, so this is more likely to occur if there's something defective with your system.

Furthermore, water heater explosions are more likely because of too much pressure. During a power failure, there shouldn't be pressure or anything operating in your water heater, so the two aren't commonly related.

Regardless, if your system starts malfunctioning during or after an outage, shut it off immediately. Explosions can be deadly, so this needs to be a top priority after a heavy storm or disaster.

Does A Gas Water Heater Need To Be Relit After A Power Failure?

A water heater mounted on a wall for the bathroom

Even though your gas water heater should continue running throughout a power outage, there are instances when the pilot light goes out.

According to Simpson Plumbing Services, many gas water heaters do use electricity to relight the pilot light. So, if the power is out, you won't be able to relight the pilot light until it's restored.

In addition, your system may not be able to correctly heat water if the pilot light shuts off, so in that case, your heater will also be affected. Again, this isn't always going to happen, but it can.

Also, some gas-water heating systems may continue running with their pilot light burning after a loss of power, so this comes down to the strength of your system.

If the light does happen to go out, that's when you need to wait until the electricity turns back on.

Which Type Of Water Heater Is Better: Gas Or Electric?

Electric systems tend to be more efficient between gas and an electric water heater. However, in the event of a power outage, they become useless, while many gas options can still run and heat your water.

One of the reasons many new properties use electric watering heating systems is that they're better for the environment. With that greener design comes a drawback: they depend on the electricity grid.

On the other hand, gas water heaters release waste into the environment and require more energy. Furthermore, a gas system can also lose its pilot light and may require electricity to relight it.

So at the end of the day, many of us can become helpless the second we're without electricity: regardless of our water heater type.

How Do I Prepare For A Power Outage?

A water heater and shower in a modern bathroom

One of the reasons power outages become deadly is that people don't prepare for them. A loss of electricity can mean no lights, heat, air, or appliances.

Even though a few hours without these essential systems shouldn't become a problem, days or even weeks without electricity can be devastating.

Therefore, you want to keep a flashlight and other emergency supplies handy.

According to the Arizona Department of Homeland Security, you also want to prioritize checking your electrical systems during a power failure to ensure there isn't a blown fuse or a tripped circuit breaker.

As we covered earlier, if your electrical system is faulty, this can cause your water heater to fry and break.

Do Natural Disasters Cause The Power To Go Out?

Yes. One of the main reasons your power will fail is a natural disaster. A few common causes for power outages include snow, ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other storms with high winds.

On top of that, the aftermath of these disasters can also become a reason your electricity shuts off. 

According to Lewis & Clark Law School, hurricanes are one of the leading causes of power outages/emergencies. Your state's power grid can also be to blame, especially if it has failing infrastructure, so this is sometimes out of your hands.

Hopefully, if this ever happens to you, local and federal help will come and bring back the power, so your water heater, appliances, and other essential systems can get back to normal.

How Do You Boil Water Without Electricity?

A boiler inside a room for the bathroom water heater, Should I Turn Off My Water Heater During A Power Outage?

If you need warm or hot water during a power outage, there are many ways to do this. Although you might need to be crafty, there are ways to take a warm shower or make food during an electrical failure.

Some ways to heat a container of water without electricity include:

  • Candles
  • A BBQ grill pit
  • A fire pit
  • Gas stoves
  • Camp stoves
  • A fireplace/wood stove
  • Solar cooker
  • Rocket stove

Generally, gas appliances and systems will be your saving grace during a power outage, so keep that in mind while preparing for future problems.

To Finish

Turning on the water heater inside the bathroom

Whether you have an electric or gas water heater, it's always good to know whether one will work during a power outage. We found that any electric system you have (including the water heater) will shut off during a power failure.

However, you don't usually need to manually turn off your water heater unless the power outage lasts more than 24 hours. Luckily, this shouldn't become serious as long as you regularly have a professional check your water heater and electrical wiring.

If your home loses power for a day or more, locate the breaker and flip the water heater switch 'off.'

Made it to the end? Check out these articles!

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