The first fully operational Smart Houses, which promise to give owners George Jetson-like command over their living environments, are scheduled to go on sale in the Washington area late next year before anywhere else in the country.

The Smart House conceivably will provide its occupants with a level of home automation approaching that enjoyed by George Jetson, the space-age TV cartoon character who is enjoying a comeback in the movies this summer.

The home takes advantage of existing technological advancements by melding them into what its proponents believe will be a simple-to-use system that will increase the safety and enjoyment of a residence.

The Smart House is part of a relatively young home automation movement that represents the most significant advance in the way homes operate since they were first electrified more than a century ago, said Tricia Parks, a residential electronics analyst in Dallas.

The Smart House system, according to Ken Geremia, a spokesman for the limited partnership formed to develop the idea, is expected to add about $7,500 to the cost of a 2,500-square-foot home, depending on what tasks the homeowner wants the system to perform.

Parks, however, is skeptical about those projections, saying the costs "may well turn out higher."

The potential of a Smart House, as described by the partnership, seems bound only by the imagination.

By touching a bedside switch, for example, a homeowner could signal the house to lock all doors, extinguish the lights, lower the thermostat and turn on the security system.

Such a home could differentiate between an intruder and a regular occupant of the house, notifying authorities when there is a problem.

An owner could use the home's resources to call up scenes of San Diego to plan a vacation or to conduct library research while monitoring children in the play room.

Speakers at one end of the house could play music from a stereo at the other end, while standard telephones can double as intercoms throughout the house.

The Smart House derives its intelligence from a computer network that sends orders via a new wiring system to multi-function wall outlets -- slightly larger than conventional wall receptacles -- that replace the electric plugs, telephone jacks and coaxial television transmission leads found in most homes.

Smart Houses served by gas will also incorporate a new plumbing system that makes gas appliances as easy to plug in and disconnect as their electric counterparts.

"There is nothing terribly magic about what it does. What is different is that it is a fully integrated, affordable and packaged system," Geremia said.

And it is designed in a way that eliminates the tangle of wires, knot of extension plugs and proliferation of remote control devices found in many homes today.

By the time the system becomes widely available in 1993, the limited partnership, which was initiated by the National Association of Home Builders, estimates it will have spent $40 million on development of the Smart House.

In addition, the 14 manufacturers participating in the development of the house will each have spent anywhere from a few hundred thousand dollars to a couple of million dollars to make their products compatible with the home.

The mid-Atlantic region, consisting of the Washington, Baltimore, Richmond and Norfolk-Tidewater areas, was selected as the first market where the Smart House will be built, with construction starting on the homes around October 1991 and completion expected by the end of 1991.

For the first year or so, only a handful of fully operational Smart Houses will be built each month in each of the 150 markets that the limited partnership has targeted for introduction of the product.

However, home builders are expected to get the jump on the market by building "Smart Ready" homes that are pre-wired to easily convert into full-fledged Smart Houses.

The first Smart Ready homes in this area will begin construction next April, Geremia said.

The number of Smart Ready and completed Smart Houses, which most likely will sell in the upper-end price ranges as both custom and speculatively built homes, is projected to grow from 4,000 nationwide by the end of 1991 to 2 million by 1999, according to information released at a Smart House technology disclosure seminar held in Baltimore last week.

The Smart House technology necessary to retrofit existing homes is expected to come on the market sometime between 1993 and 1995, Geremia said.

The retrofit market is where Parks said she believes the Smart House will encounter the most competition.

The Electronics Industry Association, a trade group of electronics manufacturers, is pioneering a potential competitor in the form of a multimedia network for the home called the Consumer Electronic Bus.

Unless the Smart House and CEBus promoters work together toward compatibility, she said, one approach will prove the big loser, similar to the eclipse of the Beta videotape player by the VHS version.

The Smart House is three years behind schedule. In 1985, when the Smart House concept was announced to the public, the product's developers believed they could bring the product to market in 1988.

"The timetable was revised a couple of years ago because {initial expectations} were unrealistic. The whole scope of the program was not fully understood at that point," Geremia said.