In the United States people have been practicing daylight savings time for about 100 years. This routine occurs twice a year, well, like clockwork. In the fall the clocks are turned back an hour and, in the spring, clocks are moved forward one hour. In order to minimize disruption in routines, the time change occurs at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning when the majority of people are asleep.
The idea in the U.S. began in the 19th century before electricity had become mainstream. The reasons behind this practice are primarily rooted in economics, not in energy conservation like you might think today. Adding an extra hour of sunlight to the day meant higher productivity, people could work longer and then have more time after their work was complete to spend money at other businesses. Not so much the case today.
So why do we still practice changing the clocks twice a year? There are several pros and cons of daylight savings time and, as a result, a bit of debate about using it.
Pros Associated With Changing the Clocks
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in the 1970s a study showed about 1 percent of electricity use was saved due to Daylight Savings Time. Although, some approximate the savings to be about a half of percent. Either way, it is a bit of savings. Experts still say it helps conserve energy.
As it was 100 years ago, a primary benefit to using Daylight Savings Time is to make use of the natural light of the sun. Artificially aligning sunrise and sunset through time changes can still accomplish this goal. For many people it makes an easier morning commute, people can get out and exercise in the morning hours and kids aren’t going to school in the dark.
This is especially beneficial to “walkers” where schools are in neighborhoods and there are no buses. Additionally, some reports say accidents are reduced with longer daylight during the hours where people need to be out. In this respect, changing the clocks can be looked at as a safety consideration too.
It is often argued that aligning natural daylight hours with the clock can be better for health. If people have more time after school or work in the daylight, they’ll be more inclined to engage in fitness activities such as sports, jogging or walking. While it is true people can still go to the gym where it is artificially lighted, this often comes at a significant cost. Going for a jog or a walk is free, but a good percentage of people are probably less likely to do this when it’s dark.
Many commercial businesses find the time change helps increase sales. Businesses such as retail, sports, those associated with tourism, and other companies often find their sales increase when the hours after work are lengthened because people are more inclined to engage in shopping or recreational activities.
Cons Associated With Changing the Clocks
Image credit: Leigh Goessl
People Use More Gas
Michael Downing, a professor at Tufts University, author of the book “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Savings Time” poses the argument that changing time semi-annually does not save energy because even if electricity use decreases, gas use increases. Downing says “Give Americans an extra hour of after-dinner daylight, and they will go to the ballpark or the mall — but they won’t walk there.”
In this age of high concern about the dependence on fossil fuels, looking at it from this perspective makes sense. If people are using more gas, despite saving some electricity, it is essentially a tradeoff and not really an overall savings of energy.
When adjusting time, even in this age of high-tech, someone has to make the time change, be it manually changing a clock, or programming the change to be made. No matter how you look at it, making sure the clocks adjust is a detail to remember. People who have multiple gadgets and appliances will have to typically physically make the change, which can be tedious. Businesses have to plan for travel, record-keeping and other time-sensitive tasks and processes.
Messes With Sleep Patterns
While it is just an hour, it is common to hear people say how much the time changes affects them and, for some, it can take time to adjust to the new clock. Many parents can attest this is particularly true for their infants and toddlers (even some older kids too), which has a domino effect on the whole family. No matter how you look at it, the adjustment of this hour on sleep routines is definitely a drawback for families. Granted, it’s only temporary, but still is a pain.
When it boils down to it, the pros and cons of daylight savings time will vary depending on individual circumstances. This is not to exclude the fact that many of the advantages and disadvantages of Daylight Savings Time are often highly controversial and benefits and drawbacks are not necessarily conclusive.
Will we keep Daylight Savings Time forever? Time will tell.
Leigh has been writing on the web since 2007. She has a high interest in business, tech, higher education, and Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia travel, but loves to write about a variety of topics. In addition to writing on Writedge, she also runs a blog about the Washington DC Metro Area and a photography blog Photos by Leigh Goessl.