The Winter cold continued today, with a record low temperature of nine degrees at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford. That broke the previous record low of 11 degrees set four years ago. The last time the average daily temperature was above normal happened January 25, which was exactly 40 days ago. This Winter has been harsh, especially over the last six weeks. However, slightly milder air will arrive by the beginning of next week.
Spring officially begins two weeks from today. Don't forget to "Spring ahead" to Daylight Saving Time this Sunday morning at 2 o'clock. Traditionally, the start of Daylight Saving Time was originally set on the first Sunday in April. However, former President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 in August of that year. The Act changed the date for Daylight Saving Time.
Aside from the benefits of brighter evenings and commutes home from work, one of the biggest reasons we change our clocks to Daylight Saving Time is that it saves energy. Energy use and the demand for electricity for lighting our homes is directly connected to when we go to bed and when we get up. Bedtime for most of us is late evening through the year. That's when we turn off the lights and TV.
According to the energy commission, in the average home, 25 percent of all the electricity we use is for lighting and small appliances, such as TVs, VCRs and stereos. A good percentage of energy consumed by lighting and appliances occurs in the evening when families are home. By moving the clock ahead one hour, we can cut the amount of electricity we consume each day.
Studies done in the 1970s by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that we trim the entire country's electricity usage by about one percent each day with Daylight Saving Time. We also use less electricity because we are home fewer hours during the "longer" days of Spring and Summer. That's certainly welcome news for those of us living in southwestern Connecticut. If you're a parent like I am, you probably find yourself telling your children to turn off lights and any electrical devices they are not using.
Most people plan outdoor activities in the extra daylight hours. When we are not at home, we don't turn on the appliances and lights. A poll done by the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated that Americans liked Daylight Saving Time because "there is more light in the evenings (and they) can do more in the evenings."
So you may be wondering if there are any drawbacks to the switch. For one, it will be darker in the morning. Next Monday, March 9, the sunrise in southwestern Connecticut will happen at 7:12, which is the time the Sun normally rises in early-to-mid December. Unfortunately, it will stay darker longer in the morning, and many high school students will be waiting for the bus in the dark.
Another negative is that the earlier change to DST puts the United States out of sync with the rest of the world for longer than usual, almost certainly disrupting not just computers but the business and travel schedules of workers and travelers. Most internal clocks in computing devices were programmed for the old daylight-time calendar, which Congress set in 1986. And, don't forget, we lose an hour of much-needed sleep, too.
How do you feel about starting Daylight Saving Time nearly a month earlier? As far as energy savings are concerned, I'm all for it. However, I think it will give many of us a false sense of Spring. I prefer the start of DST on the first Sunday of April, even though the Sun won't set until 6:53 Sunday evening.