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The Effects of Daylight Savings on Energy Consumption

November 30, 2017

If you live in the United States, Europe, or certain areas of the Middle East, daylight savings affects you. Once every six months, we are reminded to set our clocks ahead an hour in the spring, or behind an hour in the fall. The idea originated from the renowned inventor and Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin.The practice was based on the premise that people should use their time during the day more wisely, and at that time, to avoid wasting candles in the evening hours. Years later, with the arrival of World War I and to conserve resources needed by the government, the United States finally implemented daylight savings time. The semi-annual clock shift was thought to decrease the amount of energy consumers use.

Does the time change decrease energy consumption?

The one hour shift ahead in the spring usually causes most individuals to lose one hour of sleep, but gain an hour of daylight. Since there is more sunlight throughout the day, it seems logical that consumers should use less electricity otherwise needed to operate artificial lighting.According to a 2008 study performed by the Energy Department, "...the extra four weeks of Daylight Saving Time saved about 0.5 percent in total electricity per day." Although the percentage seems quite minimal, the savings really add up in a short period of time. In fact, the total is around 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours. With so much electricity, over 100,000 homes could be powered for at least one year.

Could daylight savings waste energy?

Although many proponents believe that the practice saves energy, there are just as many skeptics. Remember, when Benjamin Franklin devised his plan, heating and cooling systems were not yet invented. Nowadays, the shift means increased use of air conditioning in the spring and summer, not to mention increased use of heating systems in autumn and winter.To validate this theory, economics Professor Matthew Kotchen began a study in 2006 of the state of Indiana's monthly energy use for three years. Of the 92 counties in Indiana, most adhered to standard time - only 15 counties practiced daylight savings. To the dislike of many area farmers, Indiana Legislature decided the entire state should abide by the time shift. Kotchen's study of seven million electricity meter readings in the southern counties of Indiana compared the usage of electricity prior to the change of legislature and after. The 15 counties not affected by the switch served as the control group."The result of the study showed that electricity use went up in the counties adopting daylight saving time in 2006, costing $8.6 million more in household electricity bills," (Edwards, 2010, para.3).

Bringing It All Together

Like it or not, daylight savings time is most likely here to stay. In 1966, U.S. Congress passed The Uniform Time Act to promote the observance of the time shift. Ultimately, either all of the states agree to the adjustment, or none do.