Electric fan - flickr user Lana PalmerAs I mentioned last week, most of us are simply clueless about energy—we have a pretty good sense of weight, time, and distance, but our intuitions about energy are wildly, phenomenally inaccurate.  The most extreme example I’ve found is the Snickers-car-crash equivalence principle:  a severe car crash, such as an SUV slamming into a brick wall at 70 mph, only releases about as much energy as there is in a single Snickers bar.  My intuition tells me that a car crash must be worth thousands of Snickers; but Science tells me that it’s just one.

After discovering the Snickers-car crash factoid, I now find myself habitually—or perhaps obsessively—converting everyday events into numbers of Snickers bars.  A typical car devours about four and a half Snickers bars worth of gasoline every mile.  My hot water heater munches 10 Snickers bars worth of electricity for my morning shower.  A trip across the country in a 747 gobbles up over 4,100 Snickers bars of jet fuel per passenger.  And so on.

And unfortunately for the people I work with, my Snickers obsession appears to be contagious.  Sitting in the hot Sightline offices, intrepid intern Avi Allison came up with some cool facts about staying chilly:  a single Snickers bar will keep a small fan spinning for almost 7 hours, but only keeps a home central air-conditioning unit running for 5 minutes

So if you can manage to cool yourself off with a single fan, rather than central air, you can reduce your energy consumption by almost 99 percent.  That’s something to think about as you head to the freezer for a frozen Snickers.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Lana Palmer under a Creative Commons license