Artificial light is so superior to natural light in many respects that mankind has acquired the habit of retiring many hours after darkness has fallen, a result of which has brought forth the issue known as “daylight saving.” Doubtless, daylight should be used whenever possible, but there are two sides to the question. In the first place, it costs something to bring daylight indoors. The architectural construction of windows and skylights increases the cost of daylight. Light-courts, by sacrificing valuable floor-area, add to the expense.
The maintenance of windows and sky lights is an appreciable item. Considering these and other factors, it can be seen that daylight indoors is expensive; and as it is also undependable, a supplementary system of artificial lighting is generally necessary. In fact, it is easy to show in some cases that artificial lighting is cheaper than natural lighting.
The average middle-class home is now lighted artificially for about $15.00 to $25.00 per year, with convenient light-sources which are available at all times. There is no item in the household budget which returns as much satisfaction, comfort, and happiness in proportion to its cost as artificial light. It is an artistic medium of great potentiality, and light in a narrow utilitarian sense is always a by-product of artistic lighting. The insignificant cost of modern lighting may be emphasized in many ways. The interest on the investment in a picture or a vase which cost $25.00 will usually cover the cost of operating any decorative lamp in the home. A great proportion of the investment in personal property in a home is chargeable to an attempt to beautify the surroundings. The interest on only a small portion of this investment will pay for artistic and utilitarian artificial lighting in the home. The cost of washing the windows of the average house may be as great as the cost of artificial lighting and is usually at least a large fraction of the latter. It would become monotonous to cite the various examples of the insignificant cost of artificial light and its high return to the user. The example of the home has been chosen because the reader may easily carry the analysis further. The industries where costs are analyzed are now looking upon adequate and proper lighting as an asset which brings in profits by increasing production, by decreasing spoilage, and by decreasing the liability of accidents.
Inasmuch as daylight saving became an issue during the recent war and is likely to remain a matter of concern, its history is interesting. One of the outstanding differences between primitive and civilized beings is their hours of activities. The former automatically adjusted themselves to daylight, but as civilization advanced, the span of activities began to extend more and more beyond the coming of darkness. Finally in many activities the work-day was extended to twenty-four hours. There can be no insurmountable objection to working at night with a proper arrangement of the periods of work; in fact, the cost of living would be greatly increased if the overhead charges represented by such items as machinery and buildings were allowed to be carried by the decreased products of a shortened period of production. There cannot be any basic objection to artificial lighting, because most factories, for example, may be better illuminated by artificial than by natural light.
Of course, the lag of comfortable temperature behind daylight is responsible to some extent for a natural shifting of the ordinary working-day somewhat behind the sun. The chill of dawn tends to keep mankind in bed and the cheer of artificial light and the period of recreation in the evening tends to keep the civilized races out of bed. There are powerful influences always at work and despite the desirable features of daylight-saving, mankind will always tend to lag. As years go by, doubtless it will be necessary to make the shift again and again. It seems certain that throughout the centuries thoughtful persons have seen the difficulty of rousing man from his warm bed in the early morning and have recognized a simple solution in turning the hands of the clock ahead. Among the earliest advocates of daylight saving during modern times, when it became important enough to be considered as an economic issue, was Benjamin Franklin. In 1784 he wrote a masterful serio-comic essay entitled “An Economical Project” which was published in the Journal of Paris.