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Is the 'Extra' Hour We're Getting Really Worth the Trouble?

"We’re fooling ourselves to continue calling it an energy policy..."

Image via Shutterstock

We already sprang forward this year — now it's time to fall back.

As we bid adieu to daylight savings time for 2014, we might ask: Is it worth it?

Image via Shutterstock Image via Shutterstock

Most of the U.S. will make the switch to standard time Saturday night, turning clocks back one hour, though the change becomes official at 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 2.

Hawaii, most of Arizona and some U.S. territories don't observe daylight savings time, so they don't have to switch times.

The official justification of daylight savings time, which was adopted in the U.S. during World War I, is that moving clocks forward in the spring and backwards in the fall helps better sync the hours of the day with hours of daylight, meaning that people will use less electricity because they're out and about while the sun is shining.

The above map shows how sunlight syncs with the time of day during standard time, with green indicating that the sun is at its highest before noon, while red indicates a later sunrise and sunset. (Image via Wikimedia Commons) The above map shows how sunlight syncs with the time of day during standard time, with green indicating that the sun is at its highest before noon, while red indicates a later sunrise, highest sun and sunset. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Government-funded studies have supported the notion that daylight savings time helps save electricity but, as the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, other academic studies have found that daylight savings time has no impact on electricity use — or that it even leads to more electricity use.

The above map shows how sunlight syncs with the time of day during standard time, with green indicating that the sun is at its highest before noon, while red indicates a later sunrise and sunset. (Image via Wikimedia Commons The above map shows how sunlight syncs with the time of day during standard time, with green indicating that the sun is at its highest before noon, while red indicates a later sunrise, highest sun and sunset. (Image via Wikimedia Commons

One study analyzed Australian states, two of which implemented daylight savings time earlier in 2000 because of the Summer Olympics, and found that while daylight savings time led to a decrease in the evening electricity use, electricity use increased in the morning, leaving no overall energy conservation.

Another study, conducted by Yale economics professor Matthew Kotchen, looked at residential power usage in the state of Indiana, which adopted daylight savings time across the board in 2006.

Kotchen compared the 15 Indiana counties that had observed daylight savings time before 2006 with the rest of the state's counties that were new to the practice.

His findings: Daylight savings time actually led to an increase in energy use.

“The world has changed [since World War I, when daylight savings time was first adopted]," Kotchen said.

No longer is light the main use of electrical power.

"Lighting is a small amount of energy and electricity use in households," Kotchen said. "The big things are heating and cooling, particularly as air conditioning has become more prevalent. We’re fooling ourselves to continue calling [daylight savings time] an energy policy given the studies that show it doesn’t save energy.”

Moving clocks backwards and forwards may or may not save electricity, but at least in the fall an "extra" hour gives most of the U.S. a chance to catch up on work, take an extra hour of sleep or, like public officials have been advising for decades, change the batteries in your smoke alarms.

Daylight saving time is slated to return at 2 a.m. local time the second Sunday in March — March 8, 2015.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

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