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Don't Forget to Fall Back on Sunday: 7 Things to Know About Daylight Saving Time

On Sunday, November 4, at 2 am, clocks will fall back one hour, marking the end of daylight saving time.

The biggest consequence: The change shifts daylight back into the morning hours.  It means saying goodbye to leaving work while it’s still light out (moan) and it means an additional glorious hour of sleep on Sunday. Woohoo!

Yet there’s still a lot of confusion about daylight saving time. The first thing to know: Yes, it ends in the fall, just as the decrease in daylight hours is becoming noticeable.

Here's the scoop

1. Why do we need to "save" daylight hours in the summer?

Daylight saving time in the US started as an energy conservation trick during World War I and became a national standard in the 1960s.

The idea is that in the summer months, we shift the number of daylight hours we get into the evening. So if the sun sets at 8 pm instead of 7 pm, we’d presumably spend less time with the lights on in our homes at night, saving electricity.

It also means that you’re less likely to sleep through daylight hours in the morning (since those are shifted an hour later too). Hence “saving” daylight hours for the most productive time of the day.

Overall: We agree, the name is kind of confusing.

2. It's "daylight saving time" not "daylight savings time"

Not plural.

3. Does it actually lead to energy savings?

The presumed electricity conservation from the time change is unclear or nonexistent:

Despite the fact that daylight saving time was introduced to save fuel, there isn’t strong evidence that the current system actually reduces energy use — or that making it year-round would do so, either. Studies that evaluate the energy impact of DST are mixed. It seems to reduce lighting use (and thus electricity consumption) slightly but may increase heating and AC use, as well as gas consumption. It’s probably fair to say that energy-wise, it’s a wash.

4. Why doesn't Arizona change its clocks?

Fifty years ago, the state legislature opted to keep the clocks in most of the state in standard time all year. One reason: Arizona summers are very hot, and an earlier sunset gives residents more time to enjoy tolerable temperatures before bed. (interesting tidbit: The Navajo Nation in Arizona does use DST.)

Hawaii also doesn’t observe DST. The island state is the farthest south of all states and rejected it because it doesn’t see a hugely noticeable daylight hour difference between winter and summer months.

5. Did Florida pass a bill getting rid of DST?

Lately, a few states have looked into joining Arizona and Hawaii, but with a twist: They want daylight saving time to be in place all year long.

Earlier this year, Florida approved the delightfully named Sunshine Protection Act, which seeks to permanently leave Florida in daylight saving time.

Essentially, it would mean that Florida will be one hour ahead of the rest of the East Coast during the winter months. Massachusetts has looked into a similar measure. And Californians are voting this year on a ballot measure that would allow the state legislature to vote on making daylight saving time permanent all year round.

The bill is still waiting for approval from the United States Congress before it can go into effect. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has put forth two bills in Congress to push the approval forward, but they haven’t moved at all.

For now, Floridians will be changing their clocks on Sunday along with the rest of us. 

6. What would happen if DST were abolished OR extended forever?

It’s worth thinking about what would happen if Congress abolished daylight saving time (or kept it going all year long).

How might our patterns change? 

If daylight saving were always in effect, the sunrise situation could actually be worse for most people BUT many more people would enjoy after-work light. There's a strong argument to make that this after work light is actually worth more. Having more light later could benefit us in a surprising number of ways: 

  • People would engage in more leisure activities after work than beforehand, so we'd likely do more physical activity over sedentary leisure activities. Relatedly, studies show that kids get more exercise when the sun is out later in the evening.  
  • There's some evidence that robberies decrease when there’s more sun in the evening hours. 
  • There is also evidence that shows how there could be economic gains since people take short trips, and buy things after work — but not before — so a longer DST slightly increases sales.

If daylight saving were abolished (if we just stuck to the time set in the winter all year), it would be better particularly on the sunrise end.  

7. How can we abolish daylight saving time, or extend it year-round?

The answer is simple, it would just take an act of Congress!

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