It Seems I Was Right About Daylight Savings Time

For years I have said that daylight savings time likely made no sense as an energy saving program.  It was first used back in World War I, when electricity demand was primarily driven by illumination.  At that time, shifting the clock around to better match working hours with sunny hours (ie times with natural light) probably did save electricity.  But today, electricity demands are driven much more heating and cooling.  The same logic no longer holds.  In Arizona, the earlier the sun goes down, the less electricity we have to use when we are home in the evenings to keep the house cool.

It seems that research has confirmed my gut feel:

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. The conclusion reached by Kotchen and Grant was that while the lighting costs were reduced in the afternoons by daylight saving, the greater heating costs in the mornings, and more use of air-conditioners on hot afternoons more than offset these savings. Kotchen said the results were more "clear and unambiguous" than results in any other paper he had presented.

Of course, daylight savings time will never go away, because modern environmentalism has become more a matter of making empty feel-good gestures than performing rational acts that actually improve something.


  1. Jerry:

    I agree whole heartedly that this just like the Earth Hour (where everyone shuts off their lights for an hour) is nothing but people trying to fell like they are doing good, so they can then go do all of the things they normally do.

  2. me:

    Yup. DST has been a great testament to the human tendencies of preserving costly traditions in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is contraproductive. It's also fascinating to see countries adopt DST because, well, if all the other guys are doing it, it must be a good thing, mustn't it?

    Personally, I believe we should stop evolution right here and start from scratch ;)

  3. Mark:

    Something else about Daylight saving time. If I get home from work and it is going to get dark in an hour, I am less likely to go out and play with my family.

    With the extra hour though, if I get home at 5, there is still plenty of time to *drive* somewhere and have fun, like *drive* to spend the evening at SeaWorld, or *drive* to hang out at the beach.

    This adds energy costs outside the extra heating and cooling.

    Personally I like the extra light in the evening. I would prefer to stay on Daylight saving time all year round.

  4. IgotBupkis:

    > I agree whole heartedly that this just like the Earth Hour (where everyone shuts off their lights for an hour) is nothing but people trying to fell like they are doing good, so they can then go do all of the things they normally do.

    I always try and support Earth Hour by turning on ALL the lights, turning the air conditioner down to 60 degrees, running every space heater I have, turning on the radio AND the TV, going to the freezer and refrigerator and leaving the doors open, setting the oven on "broil" with the door open, and running the hot water taps full on.

    I figure I balance things out for about 10-15 idiots. If more people would do this we could rid the planet of this idiotic concept.

  5. IgotBupkis:

    > Personally, I believe we should stop evolution right here and start from scratch

    I don't think we should go that far, but I am a firm believer in post-natal abortion.

    I think we should change it from conception - > first trimester, instead make it 10 -> 40 years.

    It makes it SO much easier to spot nature's obvious mistakes... You know, like Teddy Kennedy. Or any Kennedy, for that matter...


  6. Dale:

    I don’t get it, other then maybe using a little bit more energy recreationally, I don’t see that how we choose to measure time would have any effect on our energy usage one way or the other. No matter how you measure it you will still be cooling your house for the same 24 hour period wouldn’t you? And, that would also be true for any other electrical usage. So other than having an extra hour of daylight in the evening my gut feeling is that’s it’s a wash.

    In the interest of full disclosure; I like daylight saving…

  7. mishu:

    DST is more useful the further north you live. In winter, parents aren't comfortable sending their kids to school in the dark and it doesn't make sense to have it light from 4:20 am in the summer. It make sense to make the best use of natural light when people are awake and active. As many lights you can flick on, there's still no substitute for the sun.

  8. Dan Hill:

    "modern environmentalism has become more a matter of making empty feel-good gestures than performing rational acts that actually improve something"

    It's not just modern environmentalism but any domain in which resources are allocated via political rather than market mechanisms. You only succeed in the market by making your customers feel good, not just yourself.

  9. Dr. T:

    There were skeptics about daylight savings time as far back as the 1940s (when the government made it worse by implementing DOUBLE daylight savings time). No one, at any point in the history of DST, has been able to show that overall energy usage goes down.

    The justification I heard as a child (in the 1960s) was that shifting the times prevented children from walking to or from school in the dark. But, a simple 30- or 60-minute shift in school starting times would solve that problem.

    Daylight savings time costs money to implement, screws up sleep-wake cycles which results in more accidents and lower productivity at each switch-over, and actually wastes energy. Therefore, our idiotic national government will retain it forever.

    Earth Hour, incredibly, is even stupider than DST. Letting your refrigerators and freezers get warmer, cool buildings get cooler, and warm buildings get hotter for an hour straight means that there will be a big surge of electricity for refrigeration, heating, and cooling. The total amount of electricity used will increase on the day of Earth Hour, because correcting larger temperature differences requires more energy than maintaining steady temperatures. Naturally, the buffoons who thought this up will never change their minds when confronted with these facts.

  10. Anton Gully:

    From an Irish perspective I find this really interesting. Our clock changes ALMOST mirror yours, but the rationale I learned was exactly what Dr. T said. I was told the clocks go back in winter so there would be more light on Winter mornings to suit kids.

    I'm woefully ignorant of weather etc, but we have long days in the summer and short days in the winter here. Putting the clocks back in Winter means it's lighter around the time kids (used to) walk to school.

    Like Dr. T said, it makes more sense to shift the habits of kids, who don't have jobs to go to, than it does to mess with everyone else's body clocks. The hours I work, I barely see sunlight so it makes no difference to me.

    The more I think about it though, the more likely it seems I've been fed a load of crap.

  11. Dale:

    Sorry, but schools need to start around the same times that parents have to go to work. On the other hand what Dr. T said about Earth Hour is so obvious that even a liberal ought to be able to figure it out.

  12. Nick S.:

    Most people with programmable thermostats don't cool/heat the house as much when they're not going to be home. An hour can make a big difference.

  13. Torrence:

    DST is stupid. My biggest gripe about it is the never-ending sense that I'm always running behind time, always running late. Or having to go to sleep too early.

    And what good is it to have an extra hour of light at the end of the workday if one has to wake up an hour earlier the following morning?

    I wouldn't be as unhappy about DST if the law also required employers throughout the country to push forward their start time by one hour. Of course, employees would therefore have to leave the workplace one hour later each day.

    Oh, so they couldn't take advantage of extra sunlight? No, because even without the idiocy of moving the clocks forward, the sun naturally goes down later each day as we move towards summer.

  14. frankania:

    The world would do well to agree to use GMT 24 hour cycle without DST. "noon would be a different number in each time zone, but would STILL be mid-day.

    and, agree on a standard date sequence.

    for example,
    when is this? 12:00 on 10/11/12?
    is it nov 12th 2010? at noon
    is it oct 11th 2012? at midnight
    is it nov 10th 2012?
    Also metric is much easier to calculate than the "English" system.
    How much trouble would it be to teach the next generation to get used to these things in a global world?
    The internet could standardize these changes--everyone uses computers. no?

  15. James H:

    Here in AZ, I'd prefer to have daylight losing time in the summer. I'd like it to be almost dark when I go home. Why would I want to have an additional hour of death heat?