Daylight Saving Time: The Real Reason For It

It’s that time of year again where daylight saving time ends and we “fall back,” turning our clocks back an hour. But have you ever stopped to think about why we do this?

The idea behind daylight saving time, explains The New York Times, is that it makes more sense to maximize society’s waking daylight hours, shifting an hour of daylight later in the day when people are more likely to be awake, rather than in the morning when they’re probably sleeping — and saving energy in the process. The concept goes back to Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century (more on him later). This, of course, means energy savings at that time would have been in candle wax, rather than electricity.

Today, reducing energy consumption remains a primary reason for daylight saving time, but the evidence does not conclusively point to energy conservation as a direct result of it.

Department of Energy report from 2008 determined that extended daylight saving time implemented in 2005 resulted in approximately 0.5 percent electricity savings per day.

But, according to The New York Times and in contradiction with the Department of Energy findings, “Matthew Kotchen, a Yale economist, found a 1 percent increase in electricity use after Indiana introduced daylight saving statewide in 2006, estimating a cost of $9 million per year for consumers.”

So who actually benefits from daylight savings time? Basically, it comes down to those who profit from more people venturing out later into the evening and spending money. Extra light equates to more money spent by Americans, specifically at gas stations and on leisure activities.

“Americans really do leave their homes when there is more sunlight at the end of the day,” Michael Downing, a lecturer at Tufts University and the author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time,” told The New York Times.


Downing goes on to say, “It has long been a cynical substitute for real energy policy. It’s the ideal energy policy because it has no apparent direct cost to consumers, and it asks no one to consume less.”

Contrary to popular belief, daylight saving time also wasn’t invented to benefit farmers. In fact, farmers were initially against the change. Today this opposition has transferred to religious groups, who tend to schedule prayer around sunset, and parents who don’t want their children to walk to school in the dark. Another worry is that darker mornings can lead to more traffic accidents.

Here are 5 more fun facts about daylight saving time:

1. The Correct Term Is “Daylight Saving Time” Not “Daylight Savings Time”

Please tell me this is also news to you. Good to know I have been saying this wrong my entire life.

2. Benjamin Franklin Did Not Invent Daylight Saving Time

He simply suggested changing sleep schedules, but not actually adjusting the time.

RELATED: 7 Ways To Make Daylight Saving Time Easier On Your Body

3. The First Campaign To Change The Time Was Led By Englishman William Willett

In 1905, Willett had the idea that the United Kingdom should move its clocks forward by 80-minute increments between April and October to enjoy more daylight.

4. Germany Was The First Country To Enact Daylight Saving Time

On April 30, 1916, Germany implemented daylight saving time to conserve electricity during World War I.

5. Not Everyone In The United States Springs Forward And Falls Back

Hawaii and Arizona do not observe daylight saving time. So, if you are truly not a fan of daylight saving, you can escape it here and remain on standard time all year long.

[h/t: The New York Times, History]