Daylight savings time (DST) ended just a few days ago and now we are all in the midst of adjusting to the great “fall back.” That extra hour of sleep seems like something we could all use more of as we slide into this holiday season, but what does it really save us today?
The Origin of Daylight Savings Time
Contrary to popular belief, the time change has nothing to do with farmers. DST was first used in the United States in 1918, in the last year of World War I, but only lasted for a few months before being repealed. It did not come around again until World War II, where it was then known as “War Time.” DST stuck around after the war, but it caused mayhem for the transportation and broadcast industries because there was no standard application for DST. Congress solved the matter with the Uniform Time Act of 1966, where the practice of “losing” an hour in the spring and “gaining” an hour in the fall, began.
After the 1973 oil embargo, Congress turned to DST as a way to conserve energy and money. At the time, the U.S. Department of Transportation found that by adhering to DST national electricity usage decreased by one-percent. That is enough energy to equate 10,000 barrels of oil. The theory was that by moving the hour forward or back with the seasons would decrease energy usage because people would have more daylight hours before coming home and using electricity. However, life in the ’60s and ‘70s is vastly different from 2016. Today, every home is stocked full of gadgets. Air conditioning is now essential, dish washers have become the new kitchen all-star; there are TVs on our refrigerators, in our living rooms, and in our bedrooms. We have laptops and phones that constantly need to be kept at 100%.
So, does DST still help us conserve energy?
A study conducted by Matthew Kotchen of the University of California, Santa Barbra, found that DST led to a one-percent rise in electrical usage in Indiana in 2006. Kotchen and his colleagues found that this translated into an extra $9 million in state expenditure. A contrasting study done by Jeff Dowd, from the U.S. Department of Energy found that in 2008, DST saved 1.3 trillion watt-hours of electricity nationally, or the equivalent of over 600,000 barrels of oil. It is noted that energy saved during DST varied and may be affected by any region’s given needs (ie air conditioning in California).
So while the jury may still be out about how much energy DST may or may not save, there are things that you can do year-round to decrease energy consumption in your home:
- Unplug electrical appliances while not in use. Computers, televisions, and phone chargers, for example, continuously draw electricity even when they’re not in use. If you want to make this process quick and easy, use power strips for one master switch.
- Turn off the lights when you’re not in the room. It’s that easy.
- Turn your phone off when it’s charging and charge it during the day. It may seem scary to turn off your cell phone for a little while, but charging it while it’s off during the day takes less than an hour and you won’t be wasting energy by leaving it plugged while you sleep.
- Use fans to reduce your heating or cooling costs. Ceiling fans can be essential energy helpers all year round because they can push up or pull down hot or cool air, depending on which direction you set them to run. Air movement will keep temperatures consistent and keep costs down.
- Use high-electricity appliances in off-hours. Depending on where you live, your power company may offer discounts for energy usage before or after peak times. A quick call to your power company will set you up with all the knowledge you need to save more.
- Wash your clothes in cold water. Reducing the hot water used by your washing machine can cut almost 90% of your energy consumption per load.
- Keep your vents open. It seems logical that closing vents in one or two rooms that aren’t being used can save you costs while heating or cooling your home, but it doesn’t actually affect how long your system works to heat/cool your home. Keeping your home at a uniform temperature allows your heating/cooling system to reach its target temperature and maintain it, so that it doesn’t need to keep running for those few isolated rooms.
Limiting energy consumption isn’t just about saving money. It’s important to conserve nonrenewable energy resources by limiting consumption. And most importantly, decreasing energy consumption will limit pollution of our air, water, and soil. Regardless of daylight savings time, let us all be vigilant of out consumption this fall season.