Rethinking Daylight-Saving Time

Daylight-Saving Time Is Past Its Prime

The extension of daylight-saving time was brought to you by the same federal government that banned incandescent light bulbs. But at least that measure has a claim to saving energy. No such claim can be made for the added daylight time.

It is a fallacy to think that if something is good, then more of it must be better. In early November or mid-March, few people—college students excepted—are still sleeping through morning daylight. A household waking at, say, 6 a.m. and going to bed at 11 p.m. won't experience any more daylight when its schedule is moved up an hour, to 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. No daylight wasted, no daylight to be saved.

So the extension of daylight-saving time gives us cold, dark mornings without the energy savings to compensate. Often it actually causes us to expend more energy: Even in my Atlanta home, for the past few weeks we've turned the heat on in the early-morning hours. The effect must be even more pronounced in colder climates.

Amazingly enough, the case for daylight-saving time isn't clear-cut even in the summer months. Clever as he was, Benjamin Franklin didn't anticipate the eventual importance of air conditioning, a much more expensive item than lighting. Thanks to daylight-saving time, in the summer people come home from work an hour earlier and crank up their air conditioner in the hottest part of the day.

In 2006, some Indiana counties that had previously opted out of daylight-saving time were forced by state law to adopt it. The measure provided an opportunity to compare how energy use changed in those counties after the imposition of daylight-saving time. It also provided a ready-made "control group" of nearby counties that had been using it for years.

Profs. Matthew Kotchen of Yale University and Laura Grant of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found that daylight-saving time increases energy use by over 1% in Indiana during those months—adding some $9 million to energy bills annually, plus sending an additional 188,000 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Daylight-saving time imposes the greatest costs in the fall, the researchers found, when it prompts increases in morning heating without any savings on lighting. But it also imposes high costs in July and August, when increased air-conditioning bills more than offset the savings in lighting
Comment: I like it in the Fall .... hate it in the Spring. Our cats (who of course do not tell time!) know what time it really is and bug us (meowing .. patting us in the face, etc) to wake us up. Image: The iconic Harold Lloyd in Safety Last!

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