I just bought my first house this summer, and I knew going into it that the furnace would need to be replaced sooner than later. One of the contractors I had in for a bid said it was possibly original to the house (1886!) and was originally designed to burn coal and was later converted to run off city gas. It works as a hot water boiler now, and I have radiators in the house. It's hugely inefficient. The previous owner said that her gas bill for last year was $3000; at my old apartment, with about the same square footage (1200) but with a new gas furnace, the heating costs for the year were about $1200. So something has to be done.

I've always wanted a wood stove, and I was wondering if it was at all possible or cost/energy efficient to incorporate one into this house. I don't want a wood-fired boiler, since one of the big appeals of a wood stove for me is having the hearth with a visible flame in the center of the house. I have heard that you can hook up a wood stove to the ductwork to heat an entire house, but that wouldn't work with my radiators, right? I'd have to have replace the pipes with larger ductwork, remove the radiators, and put in some kind of baseboard vents, right? (Pardon me if I'm not using the correct terms, I'm new at this.) And this would probably be a huge, expensive ordeal and I should just bite the bullet and get a new gas-fired boiler--right?

The way the house is arranged, I could probably put a wood stove in the dining room and heat all of the downstairs, but I would need something to heat the upstairs (all the bedrooms) in which case I would probably have to replace the old boiler anyway. Would it be energy efficient to use a wood stove in that way? I haven't personally priced it out yet, but my intuition is that wood (here in northern Minnesota anyway) is cheaper than gas. Anybody have any experience heating with wood that they'd like to share?