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The Insanity of Daylight Saving

March 19, 2018

 

We're now deep into daylight saving and you've finally adjusted. What you didn't know is that you were in serious danger for a moment. According to experts, in the immediate days after we spring forward you're more likely to fall at work, get into a car accident and have a heart attack. But if you're reading this you're alive, so congrats! 

 

All of these risks really have to make you wonder why we practice daylight saving at all. To answer that, let's go back to it's inception.

 

On March 31, 1918, congress passed a bill that would add one more hour of daylight to the afternoon in an effort conserve energy for the war effort. It was a simple idea – an extra hour of sunlight in the evening would mean less time that people need to turn on lights in their home, lowering domestic energy consumption. 

 

Although many thinkers had proposed different variations of daylight saving, Germany was the first country to institute a public time shift, with Britain following second, and the U.S. soon after. In the U.S. public outrage caused daylight saving to be repealed after only a year. 

 

Soon, some cities enacted their own local daylight saving time in an effort to help department stores and shop owners bring in more business by having more ‘shopping’ hours. Finally, in 1966 the Uniform Time Act was passed, mandating that 6 months of standard time and 6 months of daylight saving time would be observed in the U.S.

 

All of this sounds great in theory. The problem is that recent studies have shown that we actually consume more energy as a result of moving the clocks forward – and back. And we may not even get a boost to the economy. 

 

One study, conducted in Indiana in 2006 when the state finally got on board with DST, compared energy use before and after they converted to daylight time. Turns out, shifting the clocks ahead an hour caused an increase in electricity demand of 1 to 4 percent each year.  Another simulation from 1997 also showed a slight increase in energy use.

 

The oft-cited report that heralded the benefits of daylight saving came in 1975, claiming a 1% reduction in energy use. 

 

This very well may have been true in 1975 but as time has passed and energy efficient bulbs have come into common use it's actually the heating and cooling of homes that demands more electricity, not light. By pushing the clocks ahead, we actually increase energy consumption by aligning our activity with the hottest part of the day in summer and the colder mornings in the fall, thus negating the energy saved by flipping a few less light switches. 

 

Over the years, somer researchers have found that the extra hour of sunlight in the evening causes an economic uptick. One hyper-specific article from 1920 claimed that golf ball sales had increased 20% in the first year of daylight saving time. But even that can be called into question. A recent study conducted in Los Angeles found that while there is a slight increase in spending at the start of daylight saving, the drop in spending when we fall back is greater. 


If the point of daylight saving is to save energy then wouldn't it make more sense to stay on standard time instead? Especially since the secondary benefit, the correlation with more consumer spending, is flimsy at best. 

 

Sure, we love the extra hour of sunlight at the end of the day and it can't be denied that daylight saving is a true hero in the nation's ongoing war against seasonal depression but wouldn't it be a worthwhile sacrifice to know we would be burning less of our finite resources? 

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