“A penny saved is a penny earned”, the other big Ben—Ben  Franklin—declared.

He also declared a keen, somewhat satiric interest in a notion much like “daylight saving[s] time”—in part because of another of his maxims: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man, healthy, wealthy and wise”, one of the earliest slogans championing what we now call “work-life balance”.

Unfortunately and peculiarly, unlike pennies that are earned in exchange for labor or serendipitously found, those “saved” spring and summer hours have to be paid for in other hours.

These are the hours that are sacrificed in the  morning to get those extra hours in the resulting longer evenings [even though, as is pointed out in an excellent analytical and historical overview, “Daylight Saving Time Myths”, by Brian Dunning at Skeptoid.com, DST tends to keep dawn and its usual clock time synchronized, as advancing the clock compensates for the earlier dawn on the longer days].

More Damage and Costs than Savings or Bonus?

Where not seen as a “savings”, that extra hour has, in at least one instance, been taken to be a magical bonus. Apparently, when DST was introduced in the U.S., some farmers complained that the “extra” hours of sunlight during DST would burn their crops. Really, or so I read somewhere.

But, yarn or not, that story nicely encapsulates the misconception that somehow we all get an “extra” something without giving up anything to get it or we really get to “save” sunlight—perhaps more than we need or is good for us or our crops.

Since shifting the clock settings is like paying a penny to get a penny, why on Earth would anyone think of calling those evening hours “daylight saving[s]”?

“Daylight remittance[s]” makes more sense, since, like money shifted from one place to another, the DST daylight hour “saved” is shifted from morning to evening, as the clock is shifted ahead one hour.  

Perhaps because “saving” or “savings” sounds like virtuous Puritan thrift,  it feels like a satisfying achievement, unlike “remittance”, which suggests no such thing, except a likely additional cost, in the form of a remittance fee, e.g., screwed up sleep cycles or DST cluster headaches.

In general, “savings” sounds like a better deal than “remittance”—unless you’re getting, rather than paying for one.

Daylight Energy Savings?

The frequently trumpeted rationalization for the name “daylight saving[s] time”, namely, that it saves energy, is hotly disputed and complex, with one study or another suggesting minimal or no energy savings,  while others suggest worse—net energy losses, especially since the 1970s and the air-conditioning boom at home, the office and in businesses.

To see why it’s not obvious that there will be energy savings, imagine a village that has 100 homes and a factory that employs 100 people who live in those homes, but who also all work in one large factory space, e.g., on an assembly line where there is only a day shift. By delaying the onset of darkness by shifting the clock one hour ahead in the spring, the factory doesn’t have to turn on its 20 overhead lights during the shift. There’s an energy savings!

However, every one of those 100 workers has to turn on at least 100 lights, maybe more, if they are all inveterate early risers who habitually get up at, say 6 a.m., in a zone where the summer days are not substantially longer, since they have to get up a dark hour earlier than they would on Standard Time to get up at what DST identifies as 6 a.m.

Geographically, such a pure 1-hour shift in a 12-hour cycle is not only a theoretical possibility; it’s also a fact. At the equator, DST translates into a perfect 1-hour shift, in an unvarying base of 12 hours +/- 10 minutes of daylight, 12 hours-/+ of darkness all year round.

Admittedly, among the 11 countries crossed by the equator—which seems to be about 10 feet wide, as suggested by the experiment I witnessed in equatorial Kenya [shown in photo here], where draining water reversed from clockwise to counter-clockwise flow,  ceasing altogether at one spot smack in the middle, only Brazil has DST, and only in various southern and central regions.

Colombia tried it, for one year[1992-1993]. Farther north or south relative to the equator, the number of countries on DST increases, but with a corresponding increase in the variation of the day/night lengths.

In other relatively daylight-invariant zones, DST most closely approximates a pure remittance, with no “savings”. But, what about the rest of the year, after DST ends? When clocks “fall back”, as they just did on November 3rd, they return to “Standard Time”.

Ben Frankly speaking, I think that too is a misnomer.

It should be called “Daylight Re-remittance Time”.

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