Sunday, March 8, 2015

Time Lost, Time Gained

I am traveling this week so I thought I would republish a post from two years ago on Daylight Saving Time. All you ever wanted to know on the subject as you try to recover from the hour of sleep you lost last night.

Originally published Saturday, March 9, 2013

Daylight Saving Time is upon on and I thought I would provide a little perspective on the subject. My first memory of DST is when I about 5 years old.  We lived just outside of Akron, Ohio and my grandparents lived in Cleveland.  Cleveland was on DST but Akron was not so there was always a lot of discussion about what time is was whenever we planned a visit.  Even to a 5 year old that was very confusing.

This confusion reigned across the United States in the 1950's and 1960's because each locality could adopt, start and end DST as it wanted to.  In fact, on one bus route between West Virginia and Ohio, passengers had to change their watches seven times in 35 miles.  In Iowa, 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates were in effect in one year.

All of this chaos finally led Congress to pass a law in 1966 establishing set rules for observing DST nationally.  This law established DST as the national standard beginning on the last Sunday of April and ending on the last Sunday in October-exactly six months in duration.  However, it permitted any state to exempt itself from DST by passing a state law.  This was later amended to allow any state to make this distinction based on time zones in the state.  This resulted in Indiana (part Eastern and Central time) to split between standard and daylight time until the state finally went to DST uniformly in 2005. Right now Arizona and Hawaii are the only states that do not observe DST.

The main purpose of DST is to make better use of daylight.  DST allows for an hour of daylight to be moved from the morning to the evening.  Since people are generally more active and are doing more outdoors in the evening it has proven popular in many societies around the world.

Today I Found Out provides some of the background on how the idea for DST came about.
Ben Franklin often gets credit for being the “genius” who came up with daylight saving time.  Interestingly though, the letter he proposed something like what we now call daylight saving time and which was eventually published in 1784 under the title, An Economical Project, was actually a witty satire meant to entertain some of his friends, not to be taken seriously on any account.

The modern day version of DST was first proposed by the New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson in 1895.

The credit though for the modern day DST system is often incorrectly given to William Willett who independently thought up and lobbied for DST in 1905.  He was riding through London one day in the early morning and noticed that a good portion of London’s population slept through several hours of the sunlit summer days.  Willet lobbied for DST until his death in 1915.  Ironically, it was one year later in 1916 that certain European countries began adopting DST.

It has been argued that energy conservation is another benefit of DST since there is more energy consumed in homes with lighting, televisions, computers and appliances in the evening compared to the morning.  After all, if you are able to be outside enjoying the daylight you are not using power inside the home.  In fact, during the Arab Oil Embargo in the early 1970's, Congress moved up the effective date of DST to early March to conserve energy.

A recent study has called into question whether DST actually results in any energy savings today. The increased use of home air conditioning in the warmer evening hours compared to the cooler morning hours may be the reason.

Scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, compared energy usage over the course of three years in Indiana counties that switched from year-round Standard Time to DST. They found that Indianans actually spent $8.6 million more each year because of Daylight Saving Time, and increased emissions came with a social cost of between $1.6 million and $5.3 million per year.

Commentators have theorized that the energy jump is due to the increased prevalence of home air conditioning over the past 40 years, in that more daylight toward the end of a summer’s day means that people are more likely to use their air conditioners when they come home from work.

Daylight Saving Time is not really necessary as you get closer to the equator as the days and nights are 12 hours each throughout the year.  It is only as you get further away from the equator that you get variations in the amount of daylight during the year.  In summer, daylight hours exceed darkness and the opposite is true in the winter with extremes being experienced the further you get from the equator.

You can see this graphically in this world map that shows which countries have adopted DST at some point compared to those that have never done so.  You can see that very few countries near the equator are using DST currently.


By the way, the way I found in researching this post that it is "Saving Time" not "Savings  Time". Daylight saving time uses the present participle "saving"as an adjective, as in "labor saving device". I had been saying it wrong for all these years. You learn something new everyday.

I still am confused about one thing.  Since we now have adopted Daylight Saving Time beginning the second Sunday in March through the first Sunday in November each year, it is actually more standard than our Standard Time.  We are using it the majority of the year. Doesn't it than make sense to make Daylight Saving Time the standard and rename Standard Time to Daylight Lost Time?

Enjoy the extra hour of daylight and don't forget to take a nap to make up for the lost hour of sleep.

Credits for the DST facts in this blog post:

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