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Here's Why: We Have Daylight Saving Time

Have you ever wondered why we move our clocks twice each year? Meteorologist Michael Behrens explains why.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Here we go again! It's that time of the year where we lose an hour of sleep due to daylight saving time

If you're like me, you've probably wondered why we go through this routine each and every year. So, let's find the answer.

The Question:

Why do we have daylight saving time?

The Why:

Many people have blamed Benjamin Franklin for coming up with the idea, but that isn't completely true. 

While there is some truth to this, in the sense that he did write about the concept, it is important to note that his writings were more tongue-in-cheek than actual policy proposal. He just wanted his days to move with the sun versus the clock. 

Another group that can often take the blame is farmers, but guess what, they aren't to blame either. In reality, farmers hated the idea. 

Moving the clocks did nothing for the routines of their animals, who were already reliant on the sun for their daily schedules. It didn't change which point in the day you could harvest crops or when workers needed to tend the fields either. All this did was put the farmers in a bind based on the clock when it came to their daily schedules.

So, where did the idea come from? 

Like many things in the 20th century, the concept was born from the World Wars. 

Credit: United Cigar Stores Company - Library of Congress
United States war poster for daylight saving time.

During war, supplies such as fuel can be hard to come by. This means anything that can be done to save resources and increase productivity will likely get the green light. Moving the clocks used to do both.

The move to DST would align workers hours with the daylight hours, and as a result, reduce the need for workers to burn fuel for lighting and heating. Electrical loads would also be reduced in this way, meaning power plants could use less fuel as well. 

Unfortunately, this reduction in electrical load no longer exists as a benefit from DST. Air conditioning in modern life means that when businesses are operating during additional daylight hours, the electrical usage will actually increase as we spring ahead.

After the wars it wasn't until 1966 that a law was enacted at a federal level to organize a standard around DST. Though this still did not get all of the states to agree. 

In Michigan, we passed a law in 1967 to exempt us from observing the time change. It wouldn't be until 1973 that we would change this position and start moving our clocks once again. 

While it's never fun to lose that hour of sleep, we can look forward to the sun staying out longer in the evenings from now until Nov. 5. 

The sunset on Sunday, March 12 will be at 7:45 p.m.

-- Meteorologist Michael Behrens

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Email me at: MBehrens@13OnYourSide.com

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