Daylight Saving Time: Does It Still Make Sense?
There has been much debate over the effectiveness of Daylight Saving Time (DST). It is still recognized by the federal government as an energy conservation initiative, however studies show that it actually does nothing, and in some cases increases energy costs.
Daylight savings time was Benjamin Franklin’s idea, though few heeded his advice. He saw people wasting productive daylight hours by sleeping through the bright early mornings of summer and burning precious candles later at night. He sought to convince his peers to rise earlier during the summer months but to no avail.
The clever idea to physically turn back time came in 1905 when a British man William Willet published a pamphlet named “The Waste of Daylight.” Willet was an established home-builder who simply wanted more time to golf in the evening, but the idea was slow to catch on. It took a war to change people’s minds.
One of the many myths about daylight savings time is that it was created for farmers who wanted extra hours to harvest their crops. In fact farmers fought the time change, because it actually cut productivity. During World War I, manufacturing and industrial output were at their peak. Though there was no formal research to back the idea, daylight saving time seemed like a good way to conserve energy and make the best use of daylight. Surprisingly Germany was the first to implement DST. Major countries on both sides of the battlefield followed soon after.
Who’s On, Who’s Off?
Not everyone chooses to observe daylight saving time. In the U.S., Arizona residents do not change their clocks, except for the Navajo who observe the time change on tribal lands. Hawaii and the overseas territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands do not observe DST.
In Indiana 12 of 92 counties are on eastern time, and the others are on central time. Before 2006, some counties did not observe DST, which made it hard for anyone to know what time it was from one end of the state to the other. To avoid the confusion, Indiana passed a bill requiring the entire state to use DST, regardless of the time zone.
Most areas in North America and Europe, and some areas in the Middle East observe daylight saving time, while most areas of Africa and Asia do not. In South America most countries in the northern part of the continent near the equator do not observe DST, but Paraguay and southern parts of Brazil do.
Does It Make Sense Now?
Though no research proved the concept, many countries around the world continue to use daylight saving time as a way to save energy. However, several things have changed since the early 20th Century. Studies have found that daylight savings time does conserve energy during some parts of the day, but those savings are largely eliminated by consumption patterns throughout the summer season.
New technologies have increased economic output that now occurs around the clock. Heating and cooling technologies affect energy consumption during the longer days caused by the seasonal time change. Huge increases in world population have added to heating and cooling costs.
Various studies have been done to prove the theories of DST, but results vary. An Indiana study found that “the time change increased residential electricity consumption by 1 percent over all, with monthly increases as high as 4 percent in the late summer and early fall. The consequence for Indiana has been higher electricity bills and more pollution from power plants.” Adapting DST actually cost the state $9 million, though the head of the study, Matthew Kotchen, concluded, “There are certainly benefits, but energy savings is not one of them – a trade-off to acknowledge as we enjoy an extra hour of sunlight on those long summer evenings.”
Indiana started using DST in 2006. Utah and Nebraska have considered elimination. Around the world DST has come under fire as well. Russia eliminated it altogether in 2014. For those who travel extensively or have friends and business associates in far-off locations, time zones are confusing enough without having to figure out who is or is not on DST. But for now, it is a much observed practice, especially in the U.S.
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Lisa Miller is marketing and communications manager for Cost Control Associates. She joined Cost Control Associates in 2015, bringing more than 25 years of experience in marketing and corporate communications to her position. Lisa earned her BA from Skidmore College. Learn more.