Last winter we made it through using only the wood stove to heat the house, but it wasn’t entirely pleasant. For the fire to make it through till morning I would have to get up and feed the stove around 3:30am, sometimes tending it for 30 minutes or more to get it going properly. And when it dropped below 20 degrees at night I would sleep downstairs, feeding the stove every couple of hours. Even so it got pretty cold upstairs, dropping to the upper 50s in the farthest bedrooms.
This year has been very different, for two reasons. First, instead of the traditional firewood we bought last year we purchased two $100 dump truck loads of lumber scraps from a nearby sawmill. These ‘scraps’ are rectangular and very dense; a couple will burn for hours, and when I stoke the stove at 10pm it will usually burn until 6:30am, when I build a new fire on a very nice bed of coals. I can’t imagine we’ll go through all the wood we bought, so we will probably end up heating the house for $100-150 this season.
More important, though, is the insulation. There was insulation laid in the attic, but I don’t think it was done properly in the first place, and things only got worse when someone wired the house for electricity. We found someone who would blow in cellulose insulation and had him add about ten inches on top of the existing stuff. Now the upstairs stays comfortably warm until morning, even in the far bedrooms. Compared to last year it feels almost luxurious to keep the house at 78 degrees or so while costing next to nothing.