Can't speak to the layout of your house, but try closing the damper down slowly. Once I have a fire established my stove top temps increase as I close the damper and I get more secondary action instead of just sending heat up the flue. When you have the firebox good and hot you can shut the damper incrementally, which will allow secondary combustion of the smoke to occur. This generates a lot of heat and leaves you with a charcoal like substance in the firebox once the wood is largely done outgassing. This charcoal like substance doesn't release much smoke or creosote, as those substances are related to the volatiles in the wood, which were burned during the secondary combustion phase. This allows you to get that big initial blast of heat, then for the stove to maintain 350-500 degree stove top temps for several more hours, while dampered way down and not making much pollution. It will take awhile just to get all that metal and brick in the stove hot, 30-60 minutes depending on your startup, then it will start to kick out the heat. After the first reload, once that is caught, burning well and you're inching the damper down is when you'll really start feeling the heat. It got down to 11 degrees at my poorly insulated cabin last night (2 stories, around 1400 sq. feet) and it was 86 in my living room where the stove is and 88 upstairs when I went to bed. Had 74 degrees in both locations this morning when I woke up and a nice bed of coals in the stove. There are a number of us who are new to this stove this winter on here, so don't give up yet. We have the experience and knowledge of the "old guard" combined with lots of first timers who are learning as they burn.