The general idea is that Daylight Saving Time allows us all to make better use of natural daylight: moving the clocks forward one hour in the spring grants us more daylight during summer evenings while moving clocks back one hour in the fall grants us more daylight during winter mornings.
What are the current rules for daylight saving time?
Surprisingly, there are “rules” for DST as per the US Physical Measurement Laboratory:
The rules for DST changed in 2007 for the first time in more than 20 years. The new changes were enacted by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which extended the length of DST in the interest of reducing energy consumption. The rules increased the duration of DST by about one month. DST is now in effect for 238 days, or about 65% of the year.
At present, daylight saving time rules in the United States are:
begins at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday of March (at 2 a.m. the local time skips ahead to 3 a.m. so there is one less hour in the day)
ends at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of November (at 2 a.m. the local time becomes 1 a.m. and that hour is repeated, so there is an extra hour in the day)
History of DST
In 1907 William Willett published The Waste of Daylight. He was inspired by an early-morning epiphany that “the sun shines upon the land for several hours each day while we are asleep” and yet there “remains only a brief spell of declining daylight in which to spend the short period of leisure at our disposal.”
Though he did mention that it would save money to reduce the use of candlelight, his main purpose was the increased enjoyment of sunlight. He lobbied Parliament for such legislation until his death in 1915 — not living to see the law passed in England.
The findings of the first Select Committee appointed to investigate DST in 1918 were positive. Their report highlighted six effects of DST — many of which, by encouraging physical exercise, military training, outdoor recreation and even lessening the consumption of alcohol, tended to support public health:
To move the usual hours of work and leisure nearer to sunrise.
To promote the greater use of daylight for recreative purposes of all kinds.
To lessen the use of licensed houses.
To facilitate the training of the Territorial Forces.
The benefit the physique, general health and welfare of all classes of the community.
To reduce the industrial, commercial and domestic expenditure on artificial light.
The Need for DST
When World War I broke out, countries recognized the need to conserve coal used for heating homes.
The Germans were the first to officially adopt the light-extending system in 1915, as a fuel-saving measure during World War I. This led to the introduction in 1916 of British Summer Time: From May 21 to October 1, clocks in Britain were put an hour ahead. The United States followed in 1918, when Congress passed the Standard Time Act, which established the time zones.
Many changes to DST have occurred over the years. The current daylight-saving period in the US was established with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which went into effect in 2007.
Of course, there are exceptions. Hawaii and Arizona do not use DST. In the case of Arizona, there is an exception for the Navajo people since they observe DST on their tribal lands. Other regions that do not observe DST in the US include several US overseas territories.
Not everyone is still in favor of DST. Especially with all the uproar of the past couple of years.
Farmers’ organizations continue to lobby Congress against the practice, preferring early daylight to tend to their fields and a Standard Time sunset for ending their work at a reasonable hour. Some farmers point out that Daylight Saving Time is deceptively misnamed.
As of 2021, 33 states have proposed bills to end the practice of switching clocks. However, the legislation can only go into effect if the federal law changes. The Uniform Time Act would need to be amended to allow such a change. We shall see.