Stay warm this winter, even without electricity! Heaters and hot water systems are essential to stay comfortable and safe during the cold months. However, what if a sudden power outage leaves you without electricity to power your appliances? Gas heaters and instantaneous gas hot water systems require electricity, so it is essential to know your options in case of an outage. By understanding how your gas heater systems work without power, you can plan, prepare and find alternative ways to stay warm.  


Gas Heaters and Electricity Use

Do you have a gas heater in your home and have you ever wondered how it works? The heater connects to a gas source and a valve controls the fuel. A flame in the heater is ignited by an electric filament or pilot light that works through electricity. Although gas is used as the primary fuel source, the internal components, including the ignition system, thermostat and control systems and safety features, rely on electricity for their operation.  


Types of Gas Hot Water Systems

There are two main types of gas hot water systems: conventional gas storage water heaters and instantaneous gas hot water systems. 


Instantaneous Gas Hot Water Systems

In an instantaneous gas hot water system, electricity heats the water. An electronic ignition system creates a spark to ignite the gas burner when hot water is required. The internal components, the ignition system, control panel, thermostats and safety features also use electricity to power the system.

Unlike a conventional gas hot water system, instantaneous gas hot water systems don’t lose heat through the storage cylinder, and less gas is used to heat the water.  


Conventional Gas Storage Water Heaters

In conventional gas hot water systems, water is heated and stored in an insulated cylinder until needed. These water heaters do not rely on electricity; instead, they use a gas burner located at the bottom of the tank to heat the water. When you need hot water, the burner turns on, to heat the cold water at the bottom of the cylinder. 


Compared to instantaneous systems, conventional storage heaters have fewer electrical components. Although they may still have electronic ignition systems and safety features, they require less or no electricity for daily operation. Some conventional gas storage water heaters are 100% gas-powered and can function without being connected to the power grid. 


What Happens During a Power Outage?

In the rare event of a power outage in your area, your gas heater will not work since it requires electricity to function, so it’s best to turn off the gas supply to the appliance. This action prevents damage from voltage fluctuations when power is restored.  However, most gas heaters have an automatic shut-off feature that activates during a power outage, preventing gas leaks and potential fires. This critical safety feature helps prevent accidents when the heater’s electric components fail. 


You may need to check the heater system if the fireplace does not restart after a power outage. The gas valve may be shut off, or the safety lock may need to be reset.  You may be tempted to test it yourself, but it is best to hire a certified technician as My Home Plumbing to avoid further damage


It would help if you were also mindful of the correct safety measures, such as proper ventilation and regular maintenance. Being prepared with alternative heating solutions can help you effectively manage the impact of power outages on gas heaters. 


Alternative Solutions for Heating During a Blackout

There are many solutions to heat your home during a blackout. Given below are a few suitable non-electrical heating options. 


Using Gas Heaters with Battery Backups

Some furnaces have a battery backup option that works in case of a power outage, eliminating the need for an external power supply. 


A battery backup system may use an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) unit or dedicated backup batteries designed to power the appliance’s internal mechanisms. Ensure the battery backup system meets the gas heater requirements and is installed and maintained correctly.  


Non-Electrical Heating Alternatives

Firewood or another fuel source is a cost-effective way to heat your home. A slow-combustion indoor heater that does not need electricity is a great option to keep the heat centralised to one area of the house. You can also use kerosene radiant heaters for heating without electricity or gas.


Traditional heating methods like candles, hot water and blankets can keep you warm if you lack electrical heating. Ensure that cracks and crevices in your home are sealed and consider insulating your home’s water pipes. 


Preparing Your Home for Power Outages

Severe weather conditions, maintenance upgrades and infrastructure failures can cause power outages. Therefore, every home should: 


  1. Be prepared with an emergency kit and some supplies in case of power loss. An emergency kit can include the following items: a flashlight, candles and matchboxes, portable chargers, non-perishable food and water and some blankets and warm clothing. 
  2. Consider investing in backup power sources like generators, solar panels, power banks and battery-operated emergency lights. 
  3. Protect your appliances by unplugging sensitive electrical devices like televisions, installing surge protectors and turning off electric ovens. 


My Home Plumbing: Your Trusted Plumbing Experts

Knowing some plumbing basics and having tools like wrenches and plungers on hand in an emergency is always a good idea. However, you can always trust My Home Plumbing for all your gas fitting and professional plumbing needs. We are here to help you with all plumbing repairs, provide professional inspections and offer maintenance tips for your home. Contact us at 02 9195 6989 or email hello for more information.