First, the inputs (yours are probably different):
Water cost: $17.31/HCF ($0.023/gal)
Gas cost: $1.32/therm
Electricity cost: $7 + $0.21/kWh
What does hot water cost? Our water is heated by our furnace, which is a high-efficiency gas burner, rated at 96% efficient. A therm is 100k BTU, and heating a pound of water by 1F takes 1 BTU, there are 8.34 pounds per gallon of water, our water enters the house at about 60F, and we heat the water to about 130F. So, to turn a gallon of cold water into a gallon of hot water we need to heat it 70F, which requires 584 BTU. That's 0.0058 therms, but the boiler has 4% losses, so 0.0061. Then figure we lose 10% for water sitting in pipes, but during heating season that doesn't matter, and heating season is half the year, so 5% loss, which brings us to 0.0064 therms. At $1.32/therm that's $0.008/gal.
This means that hot water is 35% more expensive than cold water:
Cold water: $0.023/gal
Hot water: $0.031/gal
What would a shower be? Let's say you shower for ten minutes, and the shower head is an efficient 2.0gal/min. Then we have:
Cold shower: $0.46
Warm shower: $0.54
Full hot shower: $0.62
What about lights and fans? A modern 60-watt equivalent LED or CFL is about 10W, while a fan is more like 75W. Running one for a full 24hr is then:
While we don't have AC , they run about 1W per 10BTU. A house our size might need 60k BTU, so 6kW at peak output:
Whole house AC on full: $30/day
Whole house AC on 1/3: $10/day
Single window AC on full: $3/day
I'd love to include something here for the cost of heating, per degree, so we can make a reasonable decision about (say) 66F vs 68F. Unfortunately this is pretty hard to figure without either good estimates of how our building works or some sort of test. You can get a very rough estimate, though, by looking at how much gas was burned and how far the average temperature was from the target house temperature. Here's a graph from our gas company:
Gas covers hot water and heating only, no cooking, and since summer months show ~0.5 therms/day that's probably hot water. For heating, assuming we were averaging 62F inside the house, I get:
It looks like figuring 0.93 therms/day/F for the core winter months is pretty close. At $1.34/therm that's $1.23/day/F.
I don't think any of these numbers are large enough to substantially change what we do, but it's nice to have a better sense of how much things cost.
 With this heat wave we may change our minds, though.
Carter: "So, this local charity, People Against Drowning Puppies (PADP), is nominally opposed to drowning puppies."Unfortunately, this is not a good example to build a post around, because Carter's statement actually has good consequences. Yes, it might lead to people donating less to this specific charity, and the charity still does some good with its money, but building a culture of caring about the actual effectiveness of organizations and truly trying to find/make the best ones is far more important than how much money any specific organization raises today. Plus if, say, ACE trusted this higher number of puppies saved and it had lead them to recommend PADP as one of their top charities, that that would mean displacing funds that could have gone to more effective animal charities. The whole Effective Altruism project is about trying to figure out how to get the biggest positive impact, and you clearly can't do this if discussing negative information about organizations is off limits.
Quinn: "Of course."
Carter: "And they said they'd saved 2170 puppies last year, whereas their total spending was $1.2 million, so they estimate they save one puppy per $553."
Quinn: "Sounds about right."
Carter: "So, I actually checked with some of their former employees, and if what they say and my corresponding calculations are right, they actually only saved 138 puppies."
Quinn: "Hold it right there. Regardless of whether that's true, it's bad to say that."
This is mid-July in Boston, without air conditioning, just fans. The idea is you cool the house off at night, and then keep it from warming up too much during the day. It's cutting about 10F off the day's high.
This is enough of a reason to have a sliding scale that I think it's the right choice for Beantown Stomp and other capacity-constrained events. But most contra dance evenings don't sell out, and there I see another strong reason for a sliding scale: I'd rather have people come than stay home. Some people will always be on the fence about whether to come, and there are people who can afford $15 but at $15 would rather stay home. If they come and pay $5 then everyone is better off than if they had stayed home or went to a movie.
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