How Daylight Savings Can Save Your Facility

02/28/2007 | By Linda Monroe

The Energy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005) changed the start and end dates of daylight saving by roughly 3 weeks – a move that is expected to reduce electricity use in the United States by 1 percent. This change is great for energy savings and conservation, and makes it specifically appropriate for the topic of this month’s “Greener Facilities” e-newsletter. However, it could be a significant headache for facilities professionals who oversee building systems that haven’t been upgraded to reflect the new daylight-saving calendar.

Time settings for building-automation systems may not seem like a major concern at first glance, but they could become a pressing issue on March 11, when HVAC and lighting systems shut off an hour earlier than expected, or when access-control systems go into “unoccupied” mode before the end of the work day, locking workers out of their buildings.

Is it time to dust off the Y2K alarm and stock up on water and canned food? Definitely not. Regardless, there are a few steps that facilities professionals should take to avoid any potential problems. Buildings interviewed Greg Turner, director of global offerings at Honeywell Building Solutions (, who has been working closely with industry customers on this new change. Turner provides insight and suggestions on what needs to be done for a smooth transition in the following Q&A.

The main purpose of Daylight-Saving Time (DST) is to make better use of daylight. We change our clocks forward an hour during the early-spring-through-summer months to “move” an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening.

Buildings: From a sustainability point of view, the new daylight-saving calendar is expected to result in a 1-percent decrease in electricity use. Are there other benefits?

Turner: From a productivity standpoint, as well as the potential loss of comfort or wasted energy, end-users may not realize that they must deal with the daylight-saving time change four times each year – at the new start date, the old start date, the old end date, and the new end date [Editor’s Note: In 2007, that’s March 11 (vs. a former April 1 timeline) as the new start date, and Nov. 4 as the new end date (vs. a former Oct. 28 timeline)]. Although many professionals might say, “I’ll just reset the clock each time,” that’s not a good sustainable strategy from a productivity perspective.

Most [industry personnel] have been really tightening up the operation of their buildings; many who considered their buildings to be “24-hour operations” have changed their control strategies to condition a building for “occupied vs. unoccupied operations” (meaning there isn’t a lot of leeway in extra hours built in for a warm-up or cool-down cycle). Those are real dollars saved – not just in energy, but also in maintenance costs. If an hour of runtime is taken off equipment every week, it substantially reduces overall maintenance costs every year.

Buildings: How is the daylight-saving scenario different than the issues we had anticipated for Y2K?

Turner: Y2K was a very different event in the sense that it wasn’t so much about the clock as it was about the calendar and [how that could affect] data integrity and the potential loss of data. Although daylight-saving time doesn’t pose nearly the threats of disruption that a Y2K scenario could, it could be more complicated than just resetting the clock on your computer. It’s one of those things that, if it isn’t mitigated now, could catch us off guard four times a year every year as long as the Energy Act is in place. In a sense, the possibilities are generally operational nuisances [including warm-up/cool-down, lighting control, access control, time and attendance, etc.], but if it’s 10 degrees F. outside and a school building doesn’t get warmed up in time, it impacts the learning environment.

Buildings: What advice would you give building professionals with respect to addressing the daylight-saving time issue?

Turner: For most systems, the patch or fix is pretty easy. Most systems in building management get their time from a system clock on a PC or a workstation that’s connected to the system, and Microsoft has made it very easy to update systems all the way back to Windows® 95. Pretty much any system that is Y2K compatible can be easily updated for daylight-saving time. There are some devices that store the dates internally (for instance, the celestial time clocks used for parking-lot lighting) which might require a little more effort, but most issues can be mitigated simply by applying the fixes that Microsoft has recommended to the PC or workstation that controls a building. I do think it’s interesting that the Canadian government has decided to follow the U.S. government in making the change.

In most cases, this is a 15-minute fix – it’s not complicated and it doesn’t require taking the systems out of commission. It’s something that, with very little effort, can usually be solved; once it’s solved, you don’t have to worry about it again.

However, beyond the obvious advantages of addressing it now, treat this as an opportunity to review the schedules on which you operate your building to drive further energy savings. It’s a great time to assess your overall occupancies and determine whether it is worth the cost per square foot to light and condition a building after-hours for a relatively small number of people.

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