2015 Super Bowl Power Analysis by Ted Borer

Guest poster Ted Borer, long-time Wattvision fan and supporter, wrote up the following detailed writeup on the Princeton U Campus energy use, his home's energy use, and the regional electrical grid's usage, during Superbowl XLIX.  It's super interesting, check it out!

The 2015 Super Bowl Power Analysis – Now with a value-added look at residential electricity use!!

Previous general comments can be found in the SPEE academic paper.

What can we learn from last-night’s game in particular?

1.       DO hire Matt Flynn if you need to catch an oblong flying object, in any position, ever. DON’T call a passing play with half a minute on the clock, trailing by a couple points, and only a few yards to go. Okay we got that out of our system.

2.       This game is important to a lot of people. For about five hours the Pennsylvania-Jersey-Maryland interconnection needs to supply about a hundred million watts more power than on a different but comparable Sunday evening. That’s a LOT of energy.

3.       People use a lot of energy very briefly about ten minutes before the game. You can picture millions of microwaves, and refrigerators, and sinks being used as people prepare food and drinks.

4.       Almost everyone leaves the TV on for the whole game. So power spikes indicate boredom or hunger when people leave the TV room and operate some additional appliances.

5.       Although people enjoy the advertisements, more people leave the room during advertisements than during the game.

6.       College students care a little more about the half-time show than the PJM interconnection does as a whole. In PJM a higher % do other activities during half-time.

7.       When Seattle got a field goal followed by an interception and a touchdown shortly after half time, a lot of people on campus stopped other activities and focused on the game. These major events caught their interest.

8.       From 9:02 to 9:20 there were a LOT of advertisements. Students focused on these and used less power. In the PJM area, people walked out and did something else.

9.       When the Patriots got their third touchdown, people thought the game got more interesting and went to get more food or clean up during the ads, but didn’t turn off the TV.  When the Patriots got their fourth, everyone sat still to see how the game would end. Very little other activity happened until the game ended.

10.   As soon as the game was over, people went out to clean up the kitchen, run the dishwasher, and get ready for bed. There was a similar power spike as soon as the post-game award stuff began.

11.   Most people shut off the TV before 11:00.

12.   Ditching Roman numerals for Super Bowl “L” is a good idea.

13.   NOTE: To make the PJM graph easier to graph and more obvious, I subtracted the overall trend of declining power use through the evening. What is shown on the graph is the incremental additional energy use above the overall trend.


What can be learned from a super-granular look at our single-family home?

1.       Electric heating elements turn on and off. They do not modulate. They run steadily at full power until their temperature set-point is met, then they cycle on/off to maintain that set point. You can observe this with the coffee maker, stove, oven, and poultry water heater. You can see that the oven ran at full power as it was warmed-up from 6:45 – 6:58, then began to cycle to maintain temperature. The oven heating elements are probably about 2300 Watts. The coffee maker is about 2000 watts. The poultry water heater is probably about 1500 Watts. About 7:40 the oven was opened several times to remove food. It operated about 15 minutes at full power before reaching and maintaining set-point. We turned it off at 8:18.

2.       We do take advantage of advertisements to use the bathroom and get more food.

3.       There were about 250 Watts worth of stuff that we could have turned off several hours before we did (computer equipment and many lights around the house are not offering benefit while we’re watching TV).

4.       NOTE: To make the household trend easier to graph and more obvious, I subtracted the heat pump and fan energy use. What is shown on the graph is the non-HVAC energy. Assuming that heating the house is not optional, this is more representative of the optional energy use.



1.       Pay attention to your energy use. It is interesting. It is important from the standpoint of both financial and environmental stewardship.

2.       Study energy use in super-granular detail and superimpose what you know about the system.

3.       Learn what uses a lot of energy and what does not use much.

4.       Learn the patterns of energy use.

5.       To save money and environmental impact, reduce or eliminate low-value activities.




Ted Borer, PE, CEM, LEED AP

Princeton University

Energy Plant Manager

MacMillan Building, Elm Drive

Princeton, NJ 08543-2158

Ph:(609) 258-3966

Fx:(609) 258-1508

Cell: (609) 731-2327

Home: (609) 466-3322