Posted March 06, 2016 by Gabriel Posternak

Does daylight saving time really work?

Like every time we get around this time of the year, the talks on DST and its convenience start to show in the media. This year, 15 differents states are considering legislation to put an end to Daylight Saving, and even an assemblyman from San Jose proposed an Assembly bill to get rid of it in California.

But what does exactly do to have more one more daylight hour a day as a result of the change? Is it really an advantage or just the remains of an old habit we follow without scientific base? Let’s check the facts.

Origins of Daylight Saving Time

During his stay in Paris, Benjamin Franklin was surprised by sunrise through the open shades, while he usually woke up at noon: "Still thinking it something extraordinary that the sun should rise so early, I looked into the almanac, where I found it to be the hour given for the sun’s rising on that day." So he realised that he lost 6 hours of natural light a day and the following waste of candles at night, then he calculated how much the city of Paris could save by using sunshine instead of candles and that was the beginning.

According to the US Department of Transportation the reasons of Daylight Saving Time are:

  • It saves energy.  During Daylight Saving Time, the sun sets one hour later in the evenings, so the need to use electricity for household lighting and appliances is reduced.  People tend to spend more time outside in the evenings during Daylight Saving Time, which reduces the need to use electricity in the home.  Also, because the sunrise is very early in the morning during the summer months, most people will awake after the sun has already risen, which means they turn on fewer lights in their homes.
  • It saves lives and prevents traffic injuries.  During Daylight Saving Time, more people travel to and from school and work and complete errands during the daylight.
  • It reduces crime.  During Daylight Saving Time, more people are out conducting their affairs during the daylight rather than at night, when more crime occurs.
Does DST mess with our body’s internal clock?

“I heard some complaints last year from some of the senior citizens (in my district) and their care providers who say this one-hour difference really impacted their lives,” said Assemblyman Kansen Chu -promoter of 2496, Assembly bill on DST- to the Sacramento Bee. He also mention that the body suffers symptoms similar to jetlag and that it takes him up to a week to get fully adapted to the change.

On the other hand, Dr. David Prerau -a renowned scientist on the matter- says that "When you lose an hour, it affects some people a lot, some people not at all, and some a little bit. However, daylight saving time has benefits and those last eight months.".

This change is harder for the elderly and babies, but most of the people adjust to the new time by work and routine obligations in no time, and just suffers lightly the first day with the hour of sleep missed the previous night.

Do we really save energy with the daylight saving?

Besides all the mixed information, it actually works. According to a study in all the US “The total electricity savings of Extended Daylight Saving Time were 0.5 percent per each day of Extended Daylight Saving Time, or 0.03 percent of electricity consumption over the year.”

For California, with differential rates throughout the day, the savings are greater: it could still save hundreds of millions of dollars because it would shift electricity use to low demand (cheaper) morning hours and decrease electricity use during higher demand hours.”

With the conversion to more efficient HVAC systems, solar panels and smart meters each household can increase a lot this US average savings with an extra hour of natural light during awake time.

DST in the rest of the Country

Today just Arizona and Hawaii are the only states that don’t use Daylight Saving Time. Indiana -a pioneer on keeping standard time all year round- had to switch again to DST because "Businessmen felt that people who were calling from out of state didn’t know what time it was, they were calling at the wrong time because it wasn't the same difference all the time." says Dr. Prerau.

If California decides to avoid DST, it would be 4 hours behind the East Coast. This gap will force stock traders to start one hour earlier than the rest of the business to the opening in Wall Street, for instance. It will also make more difficult to schedule live events and it will potentially confuse calendars for events worldwide, including sports like the World Series. You might get ready to excuse some misunderstandings...

Anyway, with or without DST there are some things you can do to save energy and be more efficient at home. Take advantage of the warmer days and the earlier sunrise to make your own savings time this next season.

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