On this day March 19, 1918

The U.S. Congress establishes time zones and approves daylight saving time.

The prominent English builder and outdoorsman William Willett conceived DST in 1905 during a pre-breakfast ride, when he observed with dismay how many Londoners slept through a large part of a summer day. An avid golfer, he also disliked cutting short his round at dusk. His solution was to advance the clock during the summer months, a proposal he published two years later.

As described in Politics below, Willett lobbied unsuccessfully for the proposal in the UK until his death in 1915, and Germany, its World War I allies, and their occupied zones were the first European nations to use Willett’s invention, starting April 30, 1916, as a way to conserve coal during wartime. Britain, most of its allies, and many European neutrals soon followed suit. Russia and a few other countries waited until the next year; and the United States adopted it in 1918. Since then, the world has seen many enactments, adjustments, and repeals.

DST’s potential to save energy comes primarily from its effects on residential lighting, which consumes about 3.5% of electricity in the U.S. and Canada.

Delaying the nominal time of sunset and sunrise reduces the use of artificial light in the evening and increases it in the morning. As Franklin’s 1784 satire pointed out, lighting costs are reduced if the evening reduction outweighs the morning increase, as in high-latitude summer when most people wake up well after sunrise.

An early goal of DST was to reduce evening usage of incandescent lighting, formerly a primary use of electricity. Although energy conservation remains an important goal, energy usage patterns have greatly changed since then, and recent research is limited and reports contradictory results. Electricity use is greatly affected by geography, climate, and economics, making it hard to generalize from single studies.

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