Spring Forward! 2012 Daylight Saving Time Starts This Sunday

By Paul Riegler on 8 March 2012
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Set Clocks, Reset Your iPhone Alarm, and Double Check Your Appointments

This coming Sunday morning, while most people are asleep, most of the United States and parts of Canada will switch to Daylight Saving Time at 2 a.m. local time.

In the European Union, Summer Time (the U.K. calls it British Summer Time or BST; in Austria and Germany it’s Sommerzeit) will start two weeks later on March 25, leaving the U.S. out of sync with a good part of the world for two weeks (it used to be just one week).

Daylight Saving Time, which is sometimes incorrectly referred to as Daylight Savings Time, will end on November 4, 2012 and Summer Time ends in Europe on October 28, 2012, putting the U.S. and Europe at odds once again, at least timewise.  [Most of Asia, Africa, and South America do not observe Daylight Saving Time at all.]

The impact of this seemingly minor change extends well beyond computers, to legions of business travelers and mobile knowledge workers, among others.

In past years, problems have been noted with iPhones, specifically that alarms did not ring, and with recurring appointments scheduled in Microsoft Outlook, which were one hour out of sync.  Because it’s impossible to anticipate any particular issues with the change in clocks, it’s important to be on the alert for potential problems just in case.


Daylight Saving Time is a system of managing the changing amounts of daylight that occur during the year, with a goal of maximizing daylight hours during typical waking hours.  It was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, who believed it would save an “immense sum.”  It was not broadly adopted until the early twentieth century when the United States enacted Daylight Saving Time as a temporary energy-saving measure.

By adjusting clocks ahead by an hour, people typically have more daylight available during the workday.  For example, in the case of someone who typically awakens at 7 a.m., since in the spring the sun rises earlier each day, an individual would have to wake up at 6 a.m. to take advantage of the additional daylight.  Instead, by moving the clock ahead by one hour, that person can continue to wake up at 7 a.m. and enjoy more daylight in the evening hours.

The last change to the Daylight Saving Time schedule was in 1986, when legislation changing Daylight Saving Time from the last Sunday in April to the first Sunday in April was enacted.

Studies indicate that the savings may be illusory, however.  One researcher demonstrated how a switch to Daylight Saving Time across the entire state in April 2006 cost Indiana households an additional $8.6 million in the cost of electricity.  Another study suggested that the temporary extension of daylight-saving in two Australian territories for the 2000 Summer Olympics increased energy usage.

On the other hand, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit group, estimated that the cumulative benefit of the change through the year 2020 will be a savings of ca. $4.4 billion and 10.8 million metric tons less carbon sent into the environment.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, for every day we are on Daylight Saving Time, we trim one percent of the country’s electrical consumption.

Click here to continue to Page 2Impact of the Time Change and What You Can Do to Avoid Problems

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