Does daylight saving time bring savings?4 min readReading Time: 3 minutesIn 2007, the dates when we spring forward and fall backward (or lose an hour and then gain an hour) changed with the intention of reducing energy consumption. The general theory was that the change would make people turn their lights on later in the evening, effectively reducing energy consumption. The question is does it actually work?
Although modern daylight saving time (DST) was introduced in theory in 1895 and implemented during the First World War, ancient civilizations adjusted their timekeeping seasonally. They also allowed for more of a change than modern DST does. This article is about this month’s DST change, including the history behind it and the energy conservation goals that changed the annual start and finish dates.
The idea of reducing overall energy consumption with the use of daylight saving time swayed most counties in Indiana to adopt the practice in 2005. The estimated reduction was supposed to save the state’s residents over $7,000,000 in electricity costs each year. Since then, the University of California has studied the presumed positive effect of the change and found that the outcome wasn’t a reduction in energy costs at all, and that it actually increased the amount Indianans were spending on electricity. In fact, Indianans consumed an additional $8,600,000 of electricity, presumably because the increase in daylight also means an increase of hours with higher temperatures. As a result, Indianans came home and turned up their A/C.
The opposing argument is that this will be a short-term (matter of years) trend that will result in Indianans adopting different practices like passive cooling to keep their home cool. From a long-term perspective, an increase can be expected during the period in which people are adapting to the change, and adopting the DST was still the right decision. For argument’s sake, and to make sure you can form a more educated opinion on the practice, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the DST change.
Daylight saving time pros
The list of pros for DST is pretty specific, and it is argued that most of these outcomes could not be achieved without DST:
- An increase in physical fitness due to more time spent outdoors.
- An increase in natural vitamin D absorption due to additional sun exposure.
- Increased productivity due to more daylight hours.
- Better sleep patterns (although this one is heavily debated).
- Reduced electricity use due to less time with the lights on.
- Decreased violent crime levels; reported as a 10–13% reduction by U.S. law enforcement.
- Reduction in overall traffic accidents (which is very heavily debated).
- Overall increase in voter turnout.
Daylight saving time cons
There are conflicting opinions about the negative effects of daylight saving time. On one hand, an argument has been made that the negative effects are all related to a period of transition that can be dramatically reduced by preparing for the change. However, another school of thought is that the benefits are not worth the semi-annual disruption to daily routines and the increase in related incidents. In fact, in 2005, the same year President Bush decided to extend the DST period, Kazakhstan abolished the practice, citing negative health effects as the cause. Some of the cons include:
- Dramatic increase in traffic accidents during the period of adjustment.
- Lost productivity during the period of adjustment.
- Disrupted sleep patterns and disrupted morning routines during the period of adjustment.
- A disruption to religious practices and morning prayers.
- An increase in automated process inconsistencies and errors during the change.
Because the majority of our readers live in regions that practice DST, let’s return to the initial topic and discuss whether or not changing the start and finish times of DST in 2007 was a good idea (the decision was actually made in 2005 in the U.S. and 2006 in Canada but was not put in place until 2007). We would love to hear what you think about DST in general, as well as your opinion on the decision to change the start and finish dates. Is the adjustment period worth the outcome, and will the earlier start and later finish to DST have the promised environmental impact?
A really cool interactive reference for more information about daylight saving time with many of the stats discussed above can be found at http://www.webexhibits.org/daylightsaving/b.html
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