Does Daylight Saving Time Actually Save Us Energy and Money?

You’ve probably heard about the daylight saving time change lots of times and you likely even have at least a notion as to what it is. After all, on principle, it’s pretty self-explanatory – it’s a time change that we do to save, well – daylight.

Still, how does this work and does the daylight saving time actually save energy and money? Does it have any drawbacks that we need to keep in mind and is it worth it overall? Let’s take a look.

What is the daylight savings time change and why do we do it?

The idea behind the daylight savings time change is credited to Benjamin Franklin who, in 1784, suggested that if the clocks are switched by one hour forward and backward twice per year, this can save candles as people will spend more time awake during daylight and less time away after dark. This idea wasn’t implemented at the time, however, as the government concluded that it’d be too much trouble to try and institute such a change, especially at the time.

During the First World War, however, the U.S. decided to put Franklin’s idea in use as a means to save energy during the war effort. Electricity was already widely used at the time instead of candles, but the savings from nighttime electricity use were deemed significant enough to be worth it. Other countries in Europe and around the globe joined in on the practice during World War II and others, particularly one in the communist Eastern Block – after the war.

Funnily enough, the first comprehensive study on the effects of the daylight savings time change was done as late as the 1970s during the oil crisis when the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded that the daylight savings time change trimmed down the country’s electricity use by as little as 1 percent.

Since then, a lot of other studies by both the U.S. and other countries around the world have reached different and contradictory results – some slamming the daylights savings time change as a pointless and even harmful practice, and others – praising it as an economically viable option for reducing electricity expenditure.

What are the drawbacks of the daylight savings time change?

So, the daylights saving time change allows us to use less electricity in the evening as the evenings get shorter. Great! Are there any drawbacks, however? Here are some things that need to be considered:

  • There are numerous studies that contradict the ones that claim the daylight savings time is economically viable and insist that it actually costs more money than it saves. Take a look at this study conducted by the state of Indiana, for example. According to the study, the time change actually causes an increase in the overall electricity expenditure of 1% to 4% depending on location, time of year, and other factors.
  • The Daylight savings time has actually been linked to a lot of physical and psychological health problems. Many studies have concluded that the time change causes an increase in car accidents, miscarriages, depression, suicide rates, workplace accidents, and injuries, as well as things such as more frequent heart attacks.
  • The daylight savings time actually costs money. For example, the City of New York actually invested 1.5 million dollars for their dusk and darkness safety campaign in 2016. There is also a lot of added cost to building and maintain computer systems so that they can support the daylight savings time change. Not to mention that other studies have also concluded that the time change leads to a significant decrease in productivity for a lot of people.

Conclusion

So, does the daylight savings time really save energy? And, therefore, do we actually save money and is it worth it? The honest answer is that we don’t know. And we may never know for sure – there simply are too many factors to consider. A lot of studies indicate that the daylight savings time change does decrease energy consumption. Besides, it has some additional benefits such as a possible increase in road safety, a 7% decrease in robberies (maybe the robbers are less productive as well?), it makes for less exposure to artificial light and more exposure to the healthier sunlight, and others.

Still, the drawbacks of the daylight savings time change do appear to be pretty significant as well. Whatever economic benefits it may or may not have, the simple fact that it has been proven to lead to higher rates of heart attacks, physical accidents, depression, and suicide is reason enough for a lot of people to advocate for the abolishing of the daylight savings time change. After all, does a possible decrease of 1 or 2 percent of electricity consumption justify human death and suffering?

The flip side of that last part is that such problems aren’t entirely – or even mostly – the fault of the daylight savings time change. After all, there are multiple other factors contributing to the problems of depression, suicide, heart attacks, and so on. And, if the daylight savings time change does, in fact, have a positive economic effect, then maybe treating the problems through their other contributing factors is the smarter way to go.

All in all, it’s definitely a complex situation with a lot of contributing factors and considerations. Chances are that both abolishing and maintaining the daylight savings time practice have equally significant positives and drawbacks and it doesn’t matter what we do. Our personal opinion, however, given everything we’ve read and we know on the subject, is that the daylight savings time seems to be more trouble than it’s worth and it’ll be better overall if we stop going along with it.

Arthur

Blogger, editor, developer who loves green living. Interested in photovoltaics and solar lighting. Reviewing solar products since 2013.

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