New Study Offers Fresh Perspective on Daylight-Saving Time and Building Energy Consumption

Due to a warming climate, the amount of cooling energy is likely to increase further in future and have a major impact on the energy balance of buildings. Image: Adobe Stock

(IN BRIEF) Researchers at Empa have conducted a study analyzing the impact of daylight-saving time on heating and cooling energy requirements for office buildings. The study suggests that the time change could lead to energy savings in offices due to the earlier departure of employees in the afternoon, leading to reduced cooling needs. The researchers used simulations based on data from office buildings in 15 US cities and considered future climate scenarios up to 2050. The study offers a new perspective on the often-debated topic of daylight-saving time, with implications for energy consumption in buildings.

(PRESS RELEASE) DÜBENDORF, 21-Mar-2023 — /EuropaWire/ —  Empa, the Swiss research institute for applied materials sciences and technology, announces that its researchers have conducted a study that suggests that daylight-saving time might play a crucial role in the heating and cooling energy requirements for office buildings, and that eliminating it could have significant implications. The study’s results are a result of simulations based on data from various office buildings in 15 US cities, and take into account future climate scenarios up to the year 2050.

The researchers hypothesized that employees start their work an hour earlier in summer due to the time change, and thus leave the office earlier in the afternoon, which could save energy since most of the cooling happens later in the afternoon. To test their hypothesis, they analyzed the heating and cooling energy used with and without daylight-saving time for different climatic regions.

“That was the original intention behind the introduction of daylight saving. From our point of view, however, it makes sense to look not only at the impact on electricity savings in lighting, but on the overall energy consumption of a building,” explains Sven Eggimann. Together with his colleague Massimo Fiorentini and other colleagues at Empa’s Urban Energy Systems Lab, he has therefore determined whether and how the time change affects heating and cooling energy consumption.

The study’s results are of importance since climate change has a significant impact on a building’s energy consumption. The study’s authors also found that in future, Switzerland’s demand for cooling could match the one for heating due to climate change.

The findings of the study offer a new perspective to the often heated discussions about daylight-saving time. Although the aspect of electricity consumption due to artificial lighting is often the main topic of these discussions, the study’s results indicate that the elimination of daylight-saving time might increase the heating and cooling energy requirements for office buildings.

The results of the current study should delight the proponents of daylight-saving time. “Switching to daylight-saving time can reduce an office building’s cooling energy by up to almost six percent. At the same time, heating demand can increase by up to 4.4 percent due to the earlier start of work in the morning. However, since much more cooling than heating energy is needed in summer, the time change has a positive overall effect on the energy balance of a building,” summarizes Massimo Fiorentini. Across the different climate zones and scenarios, the overall energy savings varied – peaking at around 3 percent – but they were evident everywhere. Although this result only relates to office buildings in the US, it also provides valuable insights for Switzerland, as the climatic conditions are comparable for several of the simulated climate zones.

“Our study shows that the time change can contribute to climate protection. In the discussion about eliminating daylight-saving time, policy makers should therefore not only consider the electricity savings in artificial lighting, but also the impact on the energy balance of office buildings as a whole,” says Eggimann. At the same time, the researchers emphasize that the time change is only one of many ways to influence the energy consumption of a building. Technical improvements of the buildings, behavioral changes and a general adjustment of our working hours can also contribute to energy savings and thus CO2 reduction – regardless of whether or not we change the time every six months.

Dr. Sven Eggimann
Urban Energy Systems
P.+41 58 765 49 94

Editor / media contact
Loris Pandiani
Tel. +41 58 765 47 03



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