Daylight Saving Time: Facts and Figures

Posted on November 03, 2017 by Laura Lam

daylight savingSunday, November 5, 2017, marks the end of Daylight Saving Time – a twice-a-year occurrence that we collectively partake in, changing our clocks forward an hour in the spring and back an hour in the fall. But why do we do this? What purpose does it serve? Is it really for the farmers?  You might be surprised how many misconceptions there are surrounding this longstanding practice.

Who came up with changing the clocks? The idea to change the clocks to save daylight was first proposed by English architect William Willett in 1907 when he published The Waste of Daylight. It is believed that Willett’s idea arose from an epiphany he had that “the sun shines upon the land for several hours each day while we are asleep, and is rapidly nearing the horizon, having already passed its western limit, when we reach home after the workday is over.”  He proposed the idea to Parliament in 1908, but it was ultimately disregarded.

Who first proposed the idea of saving daylight? Benjamin Franklin proposed the notion of making better use of the day’s light while visiting in Paris in 1784. Believing sunlight was being squandered during the day, he wrote a letter to the editors of the Journal of Paris calling for a tax on every Parisian whose windows were shuttered after sunrise to “encourage the economy of using sunshine instead of candles,” according to Michael Downing, author of Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time.

How did World War I play a role? After hearing about the idea proposed in England, Germany became the first country to implement changing the clocks to save daylight in 1916 during World War I, believing it would save fuel while battling the Allied Powers.

When was it first implemented in the U.S.? Roughly 2 years later, after entering World War I, the U.S. enacted Daylight Saving Time into law also as a way to save fuel.

But does it actually save energy? In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which extended DST by a month, as a way to save energy. However, a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy 3 years later found that the extended daylight throughout 2005 saved only about .5% in electricity use per day and only about .3% over the year.  Also, a 2008 study by The University of California at Santa Barbara found that DST could potentially pose more energy consumption.  The report cited that Indiana spent $9 million more on energy after adopting DST, suggesting a rise in air-conditioning use in the evening.

Weren’t we told it has to do with farmers? Yes – except that’s a myth. In fact, farmers were some of the most outspoken opponents of the law in the U.S., believing that it would disrupt their farming practices, according to The Washington Post.

Are there any negative health effects with DST in the fall? Yes, there is research supporting that DST – and the shift in sleep patterns associated with it – was associated with an increase in depressive episodes and suicides during the first few weeks of changing the clocks back an hour in the fall.

Does every state participate in DST today? No. Two states – Hawaii and Arizona – do not observe DST.