Now that it's MAY :), we're interested in getting a wood stove-fireplace insert for next winter. We live in a 1600 square foot split ranch house (from the outside, it looks like a ranch, but it really is a split level)-- the "upstairs" is really only 3 steps up from the main floor, so this makes me think it might be a good candidate for a wood stove. Our house has cathedral ceilings, which are pretty high.
I guess my concern is cost..will we really save money with a wood stove? I saw on craigslist that cords of wood in my area run about $150-200. How long could I expect a cord of wood to last me? We are a family of 4 and both parents work outside the home 4 days a week. Also, I am expecting in November, so I will probably take 6-8 weeks of leave until mid january, (be home most of that time). We live in the mid-atlantic, we usually use the heat from early-mid november, to mid-late march. We live in a pretty urban area: we don't know any farmers or people with large plots of land that we could get wood from or anything like that.
We are in S. Jersey, and have an 1800 sq ft home with 2 floors, and we burned almost 4 cords this winter, starting in mid-Dec. The heat did still come on, but far less than w/o the stove. We paid $160-200/cord. I believe that our savings in natural gas more than made up for what we spent in wood, but we're not going to pay off our $4300 insert any time soon. Dh just bought a chainsaw, and collected at least a cord in a couple of hours after out town cut trees around the roadways. If you have a stove, you may find ways to get wood.
We don't regret the purchase at all, though. We all love it. We are warm, and it's very attractive (we spent more for the prettiest model, since it's sitting in the middle of our living room.). The kids sit directly in front of it for coloring, reading, games, etc. Previous years we kept the heat at 68 during the day, and in our drafty house, that felt cold. Now we can get it up to the low 70s and feel toasty. If you can block off your home and stay near the stove, you'll be able to burn less and stay warm. We're planning to put in ceiling fans this summer to bring the warm air down from the ceilings in winter.
I'd suggest looking carefully at retailers in your area. We went with a cheaper installer, and weren't happy with the job they did. Know what to expect on the install, even if you have to pay a chimney sweep for advice (and you'll need to have your chimney cleaned before the install anyway.) Sealing the top, insulating around the liner, and getting a good draft with a straight connection from the stove to the liner make a big difference in how the stove/insert will function. Check out Hearth.com.
This year there was a tax credit of 30% on wood-burning stoves, so we got 30% of the entire cost of stove and install back with our federal tax return. Not sure if that tax credit was continued for this year.