It’s that time of year once again; yes we all know the saying “spring forward — fall back.” Some of us look forward to earlier nights of darkness, while others dread what seems to be the lack of sunlight in our days. Last Sunday, November 7 marked 2010’s official Daylight Savings Time (DST). Let’s take a look at Daylight Savings Time and its affect on saving time, money and energy.
Beginning in 2007 most of the United States began a new DST at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and changed to a new standard time on the first Sunday in November, as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, signed by President George W. Bush. Under the previous law, from legislation enacted in 1986, DST in the U.S. began at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and ended at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday of October, around the Halloween holiday. The purpose of the new law extending DST is to provide trick-or-treaters more light and ultimately, more safety from traffic accidents. Since the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress has retained the right to revert the previous law of 1986 should the change provide unpopular or if energy savings are not significant.
A poll conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated that Americans liked Daylight Savings Time because there is more lighting in the evenings and people can be more productive. Although the main purpose of DST is to make better use of daylight by changing our clocks during the summer months to move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, DST saves energy. Studies performed by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that DST cuts the entire country’s electricity usage by a small but significant amount, about 1 percent each day, because less electricity is used for lighting and appliances. Energy use and the demand for electricity for lighting homes is directly related to the times when people go to bed at night and when they get up in the morning. On average, 25 percent of electricity is used for lighting and small appliances, such as televisions and stereos. A large percent of that energy consumed occurs in the evenings when families are at home. By moving the clock ahead one hour, the amount of electricity consumed each day decreases. In the winter, the afternoon DST advantage is offset for many people and businesses by the morning’s need for more lighting. In the spring and fall, the advantage is generally less than one hour. Thus, DST saves energy for lighting in all seasons of the year, but saves the least during the four darkest months of the year- November through February- when the afternoon advantage is offset by the need for lighting because of late sunrise.
Some argue that the energy savings by DST is offset by the energy used by those living in warmer climates to cool their homes during summer afternoons. An argument can also be made that more evening hours of light encourage people to run errands and visit family or friends, all the while consuming more gasoline. Protests are also put forth by farmers, whose schedules are tied to sunrise.
Did you know that the typical U.S. family spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a large portion of that energy is wasted. Although we may be saving the least amount of energy of the year in the upcoming months, especially those of us who revel in outdoor Christmas lights for six months out of the year, there are ways to watch our energy usage and save power and, hopefully, money in the long run.
For example, energy efficient lighting is especially important in the fall when DST ends and the days are shorter, according to the California Energy Commission (CEC). The newest generation of energy-saving light bulbs includes compact fluorescent bulbs that fit standard light sockets and provide uniform lighting. Low-energy halogen or LED lighting is also becoming more popular and more widely available. Switching to energy-efficient bulbs in ceiling fixtures could save an estimated $30 a year per bulb on your electricity bill, according to the CEC. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, when you replace light bulbs or entire light fixtures in your home with ones that have earned the government’s “Energy Star” label, you preserve energy resources and reduce the risks of global warming while saving money and time buying and changing lights in your home. Energy Star lighting provides bright, warm light, but uses 75 percent less energy than standard lighting, produces 75 percent less heat and lasts up to 10 times longer, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
The following are easy low-cost and no-cost ways to save up to 25 percent of energy use: install a programmable thermostat to keep your house comfortably warm in the winter and comfortably cool in the summer, air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle, turn off your computer and monitor when not in use, and lower the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For more helpful tips on saving energy, time and money, visit www.energysavers.com.