Is daylight-saving time a complete waste of energy?

By Paul Michael on 7 March 2008 11 comments
Photo: Paradigm

This weekend the clocks “spring forward.” I’m not a huge fan of DST . In fact, I’m not a fan of anything that steals one hour of precious sleep away from me. But I always took comfort in the fact that it was at least good for the environment, saving energy and money. However, a new study says “maybe not.”

The Wall Street Journal has brought to light a study based in Indiana that challenges the very idea of DST. Until a few years ago, just 15 of the 92 counties in Indiana set their clocks one-hour ahead in spring (and back again in fall). This was due to farmers not wanting to work in the dark; but in 2006 everyone was put on DST. And that gave some bright sparks at the University of California-Santa Barbara the perfect chance to test the effectiveness of DST.

Over the course of three years, a staggering seven million monthly meter readings were taken from households in southern Indiana. And the results? Switching to DST costs Indiana households an additional $8.6 million in electricity. And in this day and age, can we afford to be throwing away money like that?

Well, what the study doesn't take into account are the social implications of DST. There have been other studies done showing that DST results in lower crime, less traffic fatalities, a lot more recreation time and most importantly, increased economic activity. So, perhaps the money lost on the time change is made up in other ways?

It’s not like we can do anything about it anyway, DST is the law of the land and we have to abide by it. But it will certainly make getting out of bed at 6am instead of 7am even tougher come Monday morning.

Strong coffee anyone?

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11 discussions

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Guest's picture

My wake-up call is 4:30 a.m. The advantage is that it's already dark when I wake up anyway. The downside is that it'll feel like 3:30, come Monday.

Guest's picture

I grew up in one of those counties in Indiana that didn't change their clocks, and after living on the East Coast for 25 years I still haven't gotten used to having to adjust to the time change twice a year.

Nor do I think I should have to. Studies have shown that automobile accidents increase on the day after the spring time change, probably because of sleep deprivation. Add that to all the people who miss their planes, show up late to church, etc. When my kids were younger I really hated DST because it was much more difficult to get them to bed when it was still light out. As far as I'm concerned, it stays light in the summer late enough. What I really, really hate is that week in the winter when the clocks change back, and suddenly it's pitch dark when I get out of work.

Life is stressful enough without an added disruption twice a year. Getting rid of Daylight Savings Time would make everyone's lives simpler and smoother.

Guest's picture

We relocated to Hawaii from California seven years ago. Hawaii does not observe Daylight Savings Time. I never realized how disruptive the "fall back and spring forward" routine was until I didn't have to do it any longer.

Guest's picture
Frugal Feminist

DST doesn't make sense to me. As a lifelong resident of Indiana, I can't figure out why we do this or what it saves. In the middle of summer it is light until 10 p.m. This is insane! If you want to run in the morning in the spring, you can't because it doesn't get light enough before work to get out safely on the road. It's just messed up.

This study is great because it proves we aren't saving a thing. Thanks for putting it out there.

Guest's picture

Seriously? One hour? That's what messing you up for a whole year. If time changes were so devastating, how could business travelers and professional teams function with the very sudden change in time that is often many hours.

It's dark when you leave home for work. Well, it's now light when you get home from work. Take advantage of it. Go outside and take a walk or something. The rising costs associated with DST is from increased energy used in heating or cooling houses, something that could be adverted if people would simply NOT use these features and they would not have to if they were out exercising. A number (no make that a majority) of North Americans enjoy spending time outside, doing things like playing baseball, hiking, or cycling. Now they can do that after getting home from work because of the longer sun time available. Does anyone ever calculate the benefits of the mental and physical well being associated with DST? And besides, farmers make up 2% of the work force. If anyone should cope, maybe it should be the minority.

Guest's picture

...about exercising in the evening, that is. I live for an extra hour in the evening to get home from work and get my anti-depressant in (training for an ultramarathon). It keeps my doctor time to a minimum and productivity high. I'm looking forward to DST.

Guest's picture

I think we should institute Daylight Savings Time year round. Having the extra hour of daylight in the evening is so conducive to being social and enjoying the outdoors (which is a great way to relax from a hectic workday). I get much more use out of the hour of sunlight at the end of the day than I do at the beginning, where it only serves to wake me up earlier than necessary -- making me cranky for my whole day.

Guest's picture

DST YEAH! I live on the far east side of a time zone and look forward to DST each year. I hate having dark skys just after 4 pm in winter. When can we go to this all year ahs been my motto.

Here is a better idea. Let's split the time zones. Have eight instead of 4 across the contental US. I see no reason why Michigan and NYC should be in the same time zones much less Wisconsin and parts of Montana. That brings up another thing we can fix. Time Zones should be on state lines! Why should Indiana, Kentucy, Montana, etc. be in two time zones? And then We would not have to worry about Hawaii, Arizona and the others taht still do not observe DST.

Guest's picture

I should have looked at when Daylight Saving Time would be, and started preparing a month ago. Both of my kids are sensitive to changes and transitions, and this is going to be pretty rough on them. The good thing I can see is that it's right at the start of our March Break, so I have a week where we can start shifting our routine, but it's something I should have started weeks ago.

Few people consider how hard something like this can be on kids, particularly when we focus so hard on the wonderful productive members of society who cope with jet lag - aren't they brilliant? :P Some people handle the changes well, and some don't; the best we can do is figure out which we are, and prepare accordingly.

Guest's picture

I think that if we really want to save energy, then we should do something that directly saves energy like encouraging programmable thermostats in the home. That saves more energy in my home than having me run around and change all the clocks. If the big push is to have more daylight in the evening just keep daylight savings year round. When my children were infants they didn't read clocks and their parents just got more sleep deprived with this sillyness. You can't explain to a 2 year old that she's supposed to "spring forward." It doesn't work. I think this experiment has gone on long enough. $8.6 million in additional electricity is a lot of money in an age when many States are looking at dire ways to make up budget deficits.

Guest's picture

I live for the extra hour of light in the evening. I'm a zombie in the morning whether it's light or dark, but there is nothing more depressing than spending all day at the office and it being dark by the time you get to leave.