Resi... / Your... / General FAQ

I don't have my account number with me. How can I get it?
You can either call MLGW's Customer Care Center at (901) 544-6549 or e-mail your request to MLGWCustomerCare@mlgw.org. Please be prepared to provide additional information about your account and residence for verification purposes.


Why are there charges for sewer, solid waste disposal and fire protection services?
The inclusion of sewer, solid waste disposal and county fire protection fees on MLGW utility bills saves time and money for everyone. However, these services are provided by the City of Memphis and Shelby County, not MLGW. If you have a question about sanitation issues, call 576-6730. For questions about sewer issues, call (901) 576-6757. For County Fire Protection issues, call (901) 385-5127.


Why are taxes applied to water?
MLGW is required to collect taxes on residential water sales by the State Tax Code. According to the Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 67-6-334 "Energy for residential use," gas and electricity are tax exempt, but this exemption does not include water. You can review the Tax Code and the section cited above through the State of Tennessee's website.


Why do gas prices fluctuate so much?
As a commodity traded on the open market, natural gas prices fluctuate based on the laws of supply and demand. And, in times when the nation's demand for gas is greater than the available supply, natural market forces drive the prices that distributors such as MLGW must pay for natural gas.


How does this affect me?
Like most of the nation's gas utilities, MLGW utilizes a Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA) to accommodate for the difference between the cost of natural gas, gas storage, and gas transportation built into its base rate schedule and what MLGW must pay for these gas in the natural gas markets components. MLGW does not keep any of the money collected from the PGA for its own expenses or uses; it is paid to the suppliers of natural gas. The PGA is a pass through and is paid to the suppliers of natural gas.


How does MLGW read my meter?
MLGW's Meter Readers use state-of-the-art hand-held computers when recording their readings, and the information is downloaded into the utility's mainframe at the end of each day. The hand-held computer is highly reliable and has greatly reduced the potential for error. For one thing, it has virtually eliminated paperwork throughout the meter reading process. In addition, it has a built-in safeguard: if a meter reader accidentally enters a number that the computer believes would lead to an unrealistic bill, it will sound an alarm so that the meter can be re-read or verified.


When is my meter read?
MLGW reads nearly 1 million meters each month. On the right side of your bill, a blue-shaded column includes the date and time your meter was read for your current bill, as well as the exact date that your next meter reading will occur. Click here for an interactive bill sample to see where to obtain this information.


How can I help make sure my meter is read?
Remember, it's important that our meter readers have easy access to your meters on the date they are scheduled to come. Overgrown shrubbery can make a meter difficult to locate, while a locked gate or dog in the yard can make your meter completely inaccessible. These and other obstacles can cause your bill to be estimated.


How can I read my own meter?
You can track your own utility usage by using these instructions for reading your own meter.


Does MLGW "estimate" bills?
Like your car's odometer, which records how many miles you have driven, your meters record how much electricity, gas and water you have used. If, for some reason, we are unable to access your meter or extenuating circumstances such as severe weather prevent us from reading your meter, we will calculate your bill based on your history of usage and that month's weather. After the next actual reading, your bill will automatically be reconciled and adjusted if our estimate was too high or too low. In either case, you pay only for the services you have used.

If your bill has been estimated, it will be clearly stated on the bill.

To help reduce the possibility of your meters being estimated, please make sure that you provide easy access to all meters on the date that our meter reader is scheduled to visit. This date appears in the blue-shaded column on the right of your bill.

In the rare event that your meter readings have been estimated on consecutive months, please call us to discuss possible problems our meter readers are having in accessing your meter. This will allow you to identify the problem and schedule an actual reading.


Electricity vs. Gas: Which one costs less?
As natural gas prices continue to fluctuate and electric prices also rise, many MLGW customers, like utility customers across the nation,  are wondering whether they should switch from gas appliances and equipment to electric models. The ultimate decision should include several factors: age and condition of existing equipment, purchase price and energy efficiency of new equipment, and energy costs. Armed with this information, consumers can make buying decisions based on an appliance's lifecycle operating cost, rather than the initial purchase price or reaction to a rate change.


Should I heat my home with electricity instead?
It will likely remain more cost effective to heat an entire home with even a moderately efficient natural gas furnace than by using an equivalent amount of electric resistance heat. In other words, if you bought several electric space heaters, and maintained the same temperature in the house that you did with your gas furnace, it will cost more.

The use of an electric space heater in a smaller area for a limited time can be advantageous. It would be more cost effective to heat the entire house to 68 degrees, and use a space heater in the bathroom for one hour to get the temperature up to 75 degrees in the morning, than it would be to heat the entire house up to 75 degrees with the gas furnace.

However, the answer changes when you talk about an electric heat pump. Above we discussed electric resistance heating - the passing of electricity through a coil and generating heat. While 100% efficient, it takes a lot of electricity and is costly.

A heat pump uses electricity to compress and move a refrigerant. In lieu of creating heat, a heat pump moves heat. In the air conditioning mode, it moves heat from indoors to out; in the heating mode it moves heat from outdoors to in. At temperatures around freezing (the balance point of the system) and above, a properly sized and installed heat pump can extract enough heat from outside air to warm a house. At colder temperatures, an additional auxiliary heat source comes on to meet heating demand. Auxiliary heat can take the form of electric resistance heat (in an electric heat pump), or a traditional gas furnace (in a dual-fuel heat pump). While the Memphis climate can include long periods of sub-freezing weather, the total hours needed to operate the auxiliary heat over a heating season are generally low.

A heat pump is virtually indistinguishable in looks from an air conditioning compressor unit. It has an additional internal part called a reversing valve that allows the unit to work in either a heating or a cooling mode. Depending upon the size and model, a heat pump will cost a few hundred dollars more than an air conditioning unit.

A high efficiency heat pump installed with a conventional gas furnace as auxiliary heat is likely to have the lowest cost of operation. This hybrid system uses electricity efficiently to move heat from outside to inside during most winter weather. When the temperature drops below the balance point, the dual-fuel system uses natural gas to create additional heat more efficiently than electric resistance heating.

The drawback to a heat pump is a potential sacrifice in comfort. The air discharged from the ducts of a heat pump system is not as hot as the air from a conventional gas furnace. If the home and duct system are installed in a manner where the occupants feel this moving air, the heat pump may appear to distribute cool air.

A heat pump is a suitable alternative for new construction and for retrofits in situations where a house is reasonably energy efficient and the ductwork can accommodate the airflow necessary for the system to work as designed. A heat pump may not be an appropriate retrofit for drafty houses with inadequate insulation and/or inadequate duct system, or where the occupants will be uncomfortable with cooler than typical delivered air temperatures.

Make sure you consider the energy efficiency rating of a furnace or heat pump when replacing old equipment. The more efficient the model, the less energy it will consume each month. For an appliance with a 20-25 year life, that savings can be substantial. In addition, there are new federal tax incentives for installing high efficiency heating equipment.

As always, you should consult a qualified, professional heating and cooling contractor to review the specifics of your home and provide information to help you make the best choice.


Is it cheaper to use an electric water heater than a gas one?
A high efficiency gas water heater is slightly cheaper to operate than a high efficiency electric water heater. This will likely remain true for most expected fluctuations in energy prices. Gas water heaters also have a quicker recovery rate than their electric counterparts, meaning that when hot water is depleted, it takes less time to heat the new water drawn in the tank.

In replacing a worn out gas water heater, the consumer will find it easiest to replace it with a model using the same fuel. However, gas water heaters vary in efficiency, from 55% to 99%, typically listed as an energy factor between 0.55 to 0.99. While a more efficient model costs more on the front end, that additional investment will be rewarded with more frugal energy use over the 13-20 year life of the appliance.

Likewise, a consumer will find it easiest to replace an electric water heater with a similar model. High efficiency electric water heaters have energy factors ranging to 0.95, or 95% efficient. A conversion to gas will likely save slightly in monthly energy bills, but the expense of piping and venting the gas unit could significantly lengthen the payback period of the investment.

Alternatives to conventional stored-water systems are tankless options. These on-demand models are available in both electric and gas. Their big advantage is the elimination of stand-by energy losses--the constant loss of heat through the storage tank to the surrounding space. (This increased efficiency makes tankless water heaters eligible for new federal tax incentives.) Disadvantages are additional front-end cost, as well as limitations on hot water output. Because there is no storage tank for heated water, the unit's flow rate is important - especially if multiple hot water activities take place at the same time (i.e. shower and dishwasher). Look for flow rate in gallons per minute (gpm) to determine the optimal size for your household's needs.