Spring Forward Monday Afternoon

16 03 2010

I was blindsided by the onset of daylight savings time this weekend.  Wonderful.  As though I don’t already have enough work to do before I can get outside to do some badly needed yard work – hack an hour off my weekend to boot.

If I remember correctly, daylight savings time used to begin at the end of April and end on the last weekend of October.  I also believe that these dates were moved to the current dates of mid March and early November as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  This is supposed to save energy.  I can generate as much energy to displace the savings using a hydropower generation station in my back yard.  I have a stream about four times a year: once when the snow melts, but only when there is enough and it melts fast, and three other times when it rains hard.

Folklore has it that daylight savings time was developed so farmers could take advantage of more daylight hours and/or it saved candle wax and whale blubber.  How is this supposed to save energy in modern times?  It was just starting to be light enough in the morning so I wouldn’t need my flector for my morning run starting around 6:15.  I didn’t need lights in the house.  Tomorrow (Monday), it will be pitch black when I grumble my way out of bed.  Lights are required when they weren’t last week.  Savings at night is offset by more lighting use in the morning, but in our house more lights are used in the morning for numerous reasons.

Moreover, more daylight allows people to be goofing around outside later at night using even more energy for cruising around in their giant yachts, personal watercraft, golf carts, and other evil stuff people don’t need.  They should be inside reading a book by daylight that is so graciously bestowed upon them.

At the office, our heating and cooling system shuts down at 7:00 PM, period – whether it’s light or dark outside.  I’ve seen a lot of cockamamie control sequences in my time but I’ve never seen a heating and cooling system tied to daylight.  Already last week it was light till about 6:30 in the evening.  We average only 4-5 people in the office after that time of day and we only use task lighting, but then we’re energy efficiency freaks, not normal people.  No savings here.

What else is there?  Planes, trains, automobiles, busses, and water-going vessels?  Water heaters, clothes washers and dryers, refrigerators, and toasters?  Nothing there.  Street lighting.  Ditto.

If this is such a brilliant idea for saving energy, why move the clocks with such a difference in daylight hours at the time of springing forward versus at the time of falling back.  Clocks are moved forward in the spring about one week before the equinox.  In the fall, clocks are moved back about six, maybe seven weeks after the equinox.  This is a huge difference in daylight hours.  Once again, I blame congress, this time for not only knowing nothing about energy efficiency, but they also can’t handle this symmetry thing.

There should be more engineers in congress.  Engineers are symmetry freaks.  Just put some graphics in front of an engineer to see which they prefer – one sample is curvy, eclectic, and abstract – is actually interesting – and the other is all squares with a perfect balance of ink on all sides and non threatening colors, like blue, white, gray, or black.  Anyway, engineers would vote to have clocks moved in spring and fall on days with exactly the same length of daylight.  In fact, it may even be at a precise time like the start of spring, at 8:46 Greenwich mean time, Sunday March 21.  (I don’t know when it really is, I’m just making this up – I’m ok with that)

If we can’t abolish it altogether, like Hawaii and maybe Indiana (someplace over there) my suggestion is to at least change the law to move clocks forward in the spring at 1:00 PM, Monday afternoon.

written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP

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