By Margaret Malarkey

In the middle of winter, when Caitlin Davis is heading home from work or the grocery store, she pulls out her smartphone, opens the Nest app and turns up the heat in her home.

“If I’m away and on my way home, I can turn on the heat and the house will be warm when I get there,” said Davis, who lives in Sunnyside with her husband and two kids. “The house is always really comfortable.”

Montavilla resident Greg Netzer installed the Nest app soon after moving into his mid-century modern home last year. “I’m always the guy running out of the house forgetting to turn off my heat,” Netzer said. “I knew myself and I knew that I liked the promise of the Nest learning my habits so that it could automate a heating and cooling schedule based on when I’m around.”

The usefulness of Nest went even beyond Netzer’s expectations. During the holiday season, as temperatures dropped and schedules shifted, he received an alert from Nest informing him that the thermostat was going to relearn his habits to account for the season’s needs. The result was a revised and more efficient home heating program.

Controlling heating and cooling from afar is one of many benefits of smart thermostats like Nest and Ecobee. The thermostats create a schedule suited to the lifestyles and preferences of the people living there, turning the heat on when you’re about to return home and off when you leave. This ease and convenience improves comfort and saves money on heating and cooling bills.

Small and modern with futuristic, minimalistic design, smart thermostats are one of many technologies currently transforming homes into responsive environments that can adjust to individual habits and needs.

The smart home revolution is about more than comfort and cost savings as it’s also good for the environment, said Stephanie Swanson, vice president of communications at Enhabit (formerly Clean Energy Works). One of the leading residential improvement programs in the country, Enhabit improves how homes perform to create healthier, safer, more comfortable and energy-efficient places to live.

“Smart thermostats help us make sure our homes are comfortable when we’re there, and they can greatly reduce the operation of our heating and cooling systems when we’re not around,” said Swanson. “They’re a smart, useful technology making a difference for the environment.”

A recent analysis by Nest of three separate energy studies showed the smart thermostat saved customers an average of 10 to 12 percent on heating and 15 percent on cooling.

The non-profit Enhabit recently launched Smart Stat to help more Portland residents use smart thermostats. Homeowners receive professional installation of a thermostat plus a free home energy assessment and energy score, and Energy Trust incentives for qualifying equipment and products. As a bonus, Enhabit Home Advisors also install a free energy and water savings kit containing LED light bulbs and faucet aerators. Homeowners can apply at enhabit.org/smart.

The City of Portland recently adopted a policy to require sellers of single-family homes to obtain a home energy assessment and score, before a home is listed for sale in Portland. Home energy scores provide an apples-to-apples energy use comparison between homes. That score is then provided to prospective buyers.

Before getting their Nest, Davis and her family went through Enhabit’s rigorous home energy audit and learned that although their house was well-insulated, there were drafts and gaps allowing air to leak into and out of the home, wasting energy. Working with Enhabit, they plugged drafts and caulked to seal the house and prevent further energy loss.

The Nest was another part of the family’s plan to make the house more comfortable and efficient.

Their experience with the Nest has piqued the interest of both Davis and Netzer for making their homes even smarter. Davis has already installed smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and Netzer is intrigued by the other devices and apps the Nest can interact with, from water heaters to beds to Amazon’s Echo.

“This is my first smart home device,” Netzer said. “I’d totally recommend it. I already have.”