Let’s be upfront about this. Despite what you or your friends say, it’s not Daylight Savings Time, it’s Daylight Saving Time. Yes, it’s singular. But whatever you call it, it’s the time where your clocks get set ahead (spring forward) or set back (fall back). And that time is upon us all in most of the United States once again. On the morning of Sunday, March 12, 2017, or the night before as you crawl into bed, you need to set your clocks ahead one hour.
How Did Daylight Saving Time Begin?
Daylight Saving Time, or DST, came about when Benjamin Franklin was in Paris, France as a delegate in 1784. He thought that waking up an hour earlier during the summer months would save on candles. He wrote about it in An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light where he noted that the sun rose as early as six in the morning, and would continue to do so until the year nearly ended. With some math and figuring, he determined that between March 20 and September 20, there were 183 nights and 1,281 hours of candle burning each year. With the population of Paris at 100,000 at the time and the current cost of wax, he estimated that Paris could save 96,075,000 livres tournois. The livres tournois was the currency in France prior to the introduction of the franc in 1795.
That’s the equivalent of $843,690,816.58 in 2015 dollars, which is no small sum. Benjamin Franklin was a pretty smart guy.
Fast forward to 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Calder Act, also known as the Standard Time Act, into law. It was meant to define time zones and introduce Daylight Saving Time across the United States. The portion of the Act that dealt with Daylight Saving Time was repealed a year later on August 20, 1919, despite a veto by President Wilson. However, some states and areas still observed DST, but at different dates, and that led to some confusion.
So in 1966, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 was written into effect. Originally, DST started on the last Sunday in April and ended on the last Sunday in October. This act used the weights and measures authority given to Congress by Art. 1, Sec. 8 of the United States Constitution to end individual state laws regarding DST. The dates were changed in 1986 to the first Sunday in April and the last Sunday of October as the start and end dates respectively. They changed the dates again in 2007 to start DST on the second Sunday in March and ending on the first Sunday in November.
Does Daylight Saving Time Really Save Money?
Well, yes and no. DST does reduce the amount of electricity used in most areas, but other costs tend to increase. According to a report in 2008 by the Department of Energy, in 2007, there was a study that showed that over the entire nation, about 0.5 percent of electricity was saved. That’s a total of 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours, or enough to power 100,000 houses for an entire year.
Opponents of Daylight Saving Time, however, say that the change in hours actually costs them money. Among the industries who don’t like DST are farmers, who say the changing times disrupt their schedules. After all, cows don’t care what time the clock says when it’s time to be milked.
Does Everyone Observe Daylight Saving Time?
Believe it or not, not everyone in the United States observes Daylight Saving Time. Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands all do not observe DST. Other American territories that do not follow DST are the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Guam.
Inside Arizona, it gets even more confusing. Because the Native American nations in Arizona have the right to observe DST or not, if you travel within the Navajo Nation, you observe DST. On the other hand, traveling in the Hopi Nation, (which is inside the Navajo Nation), you do not observe DST.
If you’re wondering why these states and territories don’t observe DST, that’s because they get enough sunshine as it is, thank you. An increase in the number of daylight hours would have the opposite effect on electrical savings, because people would get up earlier and turn on their air conditioners an hour earlier. In states where daytime temps can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s a huge consideration.
So, for the other 48 states in the United States, don’t forget to set your clocks forward on March 12, 2017. And remember that you get to set them back again on November 5, 2017.
[Featured Image by Michael Jay Berlin/Shutterstock Images]