MICHAEL AND ELEANOR Pinkert smiled when they looked at their January electric bill. heat, hot water, stove, lights -- everything, $228.

On the day when some homeowners in the area were wondering if they could pay their electric bill if they sold their car, the cat and the children, the Pinkerts were not only warm, but comparatively, solvent.

The Pinkerts do not live in a cave or have a captive warm springs, nor have they made a separate peace with Iran. They have a new house built to answer the needs of today. Solar collectors (320 square feet) help along the two heat pumps zoned for different sections of the house. Heavy insulation is energy-rated at R19 for the walls, R29 for the roof, about the current recommendations. Double-glazed glass is set in insulated frames. An atrium, a glass-roofed sun trap, collect passive solar heat.

Similar savings this winter have been collected by jack and Stephanie Herman. The Hermans have the same type of heating systems as the Pinkerts and similar energy-saving construction. Both houses are near each other in McLean, Va. Both were designed by Kim Kristoff, a partner in RWK International. Clyde G. Hurst was the solar mechanical engineer on the houses. Bob Carr was the contractor.

The houses, though both contemporary in design, are very different, outside and inside, to suit different tastes and needs.