If you live anywhere in the North, you’ve no doubt experienced the joyous thrill of freezing temperatures this past week. Here in the Midwest, we’ve even had the pleasure of a balmy -20 degree wind chill during a couple nights. Needless to say, winter’s in full force, and it’s cold.
As a homeowner, freezing temperatures mean one thing: rising heating costs. Whether gas or electric, your furnace is going to be running day and night to keep your home’s temperature at a comfortable level. In my case, I have two furnaces running – one on each side of my home – which equates to roughly an extra $500 per month in the winter. Multiply this by the four months I run the furnace, and I spend approximately $2,000 a year to keep my home warm and comfortable in the winter months. Even worse, this winter, one of my furnaces began acting up, before eventually quitting on me. This meant that on top of the $2,000 I was already going to spend on heating, I had to spend even more money to keep my furnace running.
As someone that likes to save money, I knew there had to be a better alternative to heating my home than simply running two furnaces 24/7. And it turns out, the answer came from something my home already offered: the fireplace.
Before I go any further, let me give you a quick overview of my home. It’s an older, single story ranch with the kitchen, family room, living room and dining room on one side (heated with one furnace), while the bedrooms and bathrooms are on the other side, heated by the second furnace. The total square footage for the main level is just under 3,000 square feet. In the family room, which is on the far end of the house, there exists an original wood burning fireplace.
Up until recently, this fireplace was purely cosmetic. If you research wood burning fireplaces, you’ll quickly discover how inefficient they are, as most of the heat they generate escapes up through the chimney, as does the heat generated by your furnace when your fireplace isn’t in use. So in my case, we heated our home with the furnaces, and occasionally used the fireplace for ambience and the romantic glow that only a fire can give you.
But this winter, when my furnace went out and I started looking into new furnaces, I came across the wood-burning Lennox® Montlake™ Fireplace Insert. It’s purpose: to transform your wood burning fireplace into a fire-breathing beast, churning out copious amounts of heat while eliminating the inefficiency that’s inherent to traditional wood burning fireplaces. Tired of high utility bills and furnace repair costs, I decided to give it a shot, and the results have been simply spectacular. I’ve managed to completely eliminate the need for one furnace while cutting the run time on the second furnace in half.
Read on to find out what makes the Lennox® Montlake™ Fireplace Insert so great, and whether or not it’s right for you.
Lennox® Montlake™ Fireplace Insert Overview
Of all the ways you can heat your home, there’s nothing more special than doing so with a gorgeous, glowing fireplace. But in their standard form, a wood burning fireplace’s inefficiency is only enough to heat a room, if that. Add in a wood-burning insert, however, and you gain two key things. Number one, you gain a tremendous amount of control over the size and intensity of the fire, and number two, you gain the ability to distribute the heat efficiently out into your home.
While Lennox® offers a variety of fireplace inserts (including wood-burning, gas-burning and pellet-burning) in a variety of designs, I opted for the classically designed Montlake™ model. It’s style is one that’s suited for a wide range of home designs, as it’s elegant enough for more formal settings yet classic enough for country and rustic designs as well.
Which fireplace insert you pick depends on the size of your existing fireplace as well as the amount of space you need to heat. In my case, the Montlake™ insert was the perfect size for my existing fireplace, while its heat output was enough to heat over half my home (on paper). As I’d come to find out, it actually exceeded my expectations in terms of the heat it produced.
As for what you need to install the Montlake™ fireplace insert (or any of the other Lennox® wood-burning inserts), this is the area that surprised me the most. You need an existing masonry or metal fireplace with dimensions large enough to accommodate the insert. That’s it. Inside your home, the Montlake™ is a completely self-contained unit, meaning that you literally put it in place, plug it in to the wall, and you’re done. The total install time for my installation was a couple hours, which included a new chimney liner, rain cap, and installing the Montlake™ insert itself.
In short, if you have an existing fireplace, you can be heating your home with an efficient wood-burning insert in less than a day, with no interior modifications to your home.
Lennox® Montlake™ Fireplace Insert Features
So what makes the Lennox® Montlake™ fireplace insert so great? There’s a couple key technological advantages that led me to select the Montlake™ over other inserts, and I can tell you firsthand it’s exceeded my expectations across the board.
Without getting overly technical, here’s a quick overview of how the Montlake™ works. At the heart of the Lennox® Montlake™ is what’s called Thermal Fin technology. With all fireplace inserts, the idea is that as you burn wood, the heat generated by the fire heats the insert itself. Air is then passed through the heated area of the insert, warmed, and distributed into the room. What Thermal Fin technology does, however, is increase the amount of surface area that’s heated by the fire. A series of fins extend up into the airflow, increasing the amount of surface area that heats the air by 32 percent. This results in significantly more efficiency and heat output when compared to other similarly sized inserts.
It’s important to note that the air itself heating your home is not passed through the inside of your insert, but rather through the separate, heated portion on the top. In other words, the fire, smoke, etc. never come in contact with the warm air blown into your home, so you don’t have to worry about lessened indoor air quality. And speaking of air quality, the Lennox® Montlake™ is EPA-certified, Washington State approved, and features an air booster, designed to reduce smoke and promote cleaner, more efficient burns.
Further helping the burn process, the Montlake™ is lined with refractory firebrick and a refractory baffle system – a material that manages to retain a tremendous amount of heat and keep the fireplace warmer, for longer periods of time. Other features of the Montlake™ Fireplace include an adjustable damper to control the intensity of the fire as well as an adjustable blower with an auto on/off feature.
Lennox® Montlake™ Fireplace Insert Design
The Lennox® Montlake™ notes a truly classic, beautiful design, as much at home in a luxurious setting as it is in a more rustic country setting. As you can see in the photos, the Montlake™ notes an angular design that projects slightly into the room, not only helping accent the insert but also creating a sense of depth around it. There’s a large ceramic glass viewing window in the front, which frames perfectly the roaring fire, while an airwash system helps to keep the glass clean during heating. One of the great elements of the Montlake™’s design is that because it projects into the room, the top of the insert notes an 8-inch flat heated surface on top, a perfect heating option for warming a tea kettle and enjoying a cozy fireside cup of tea.
For additional style options, you also choose to customize the decorative door trim, with options including black, brushed nickel or nickel, while the top warming element of the Montlake™ can be ordered in either cast iron or heavy-gauge steel.
Lennox® Montlake™ Fireplace Insert In Use
If you have a wood-burning fireplace and have ever used it to burn a fire, then you already know how to use the Lennox® Montlake™ fireplace insert. There’s a damper control to vary the amount of air reaching the fire; there’s a blower on/auto switch, and there’s a blower adjustment knob to vary the amount of air distributed into the room.
The easiest way to start the Montlake™ is to use a small fire starter and add your wood, ensuring it has sufficient air flow underneath. Keep the damper fully open, and keep the front door of the insert cracked open. Light the fire starter, and within ten minutes your wood will be engulfed in flames. Once the fire is blazing, seal the front door, and keep the damper all the way open until the first round of wood has burned. It’s incredibly easy to get the Montlake™ up and running quickly. From there, it’s simply a case of lowering the damper settings and tossing in a couple logs every now and then to keep the fire hot.
As for the blower operation, it’s even easier. You can set the Montlake™ blower to auto, which means once the insert is up to heat, the blower will automatically come on and begin heating your home. Likewise, once you’ve stopped the fire, the blower automatically shuts off once the heating element cools to a certain point. For more manual control, you can also opt to turn the blower on or off yourself, and there’s also a stepless control over the blower, ranging from a slight amount of airflow to a significantly stronger amount of heat output.
In real world use, I can tell you the Montlake™ easily delivers on the heat output it promises (1,200 – 2,2200 sq. ft). On cold days, I’ll start the insert when I wake up and keep it going all day, and the heat output it generates is enough to be the only heat source I use, meaning both of my furnaces are off (with total square footage about 2,800 sq. feet). The only time I operate the furnace is at night on one side of the house while I’m asleep, after I’ve stopped adding wood to the fire. After using the Montlake™, I’ve learned the key to maximizing heating is a long, extended burn, as it takes time for the heat generated by the insert to radiate throughout your home. Give it time, and the Montlake™’s heating output is remarkable.
Another benefit to the insert is the actual temperatures it can reach. Whereas with my furnace, I tend to keep my home’s temperature relatively low to save on heating costs, with the Montlake™, the rooms immediately around the insert get significantly warmer than they do when I run the furnace. So not only do I save money by not running the furnace, the actual temperature is higher as well, meaning my home is more comfortable.
I already know what you’re thinking: “What if I can’t run the insert all day?” With shorter use (i.e., when I get home from work and just want to use it for the night), the Montlake™ can still put out enough heat quickly to avoid turning on the furnace. When lighting the fire, it takes roughly ten minutes for the blower to turn on and begin heating, and by the time I go to bed I’ve usually shed half my clothes because my house is so warm.
The Lennox® Montlake™ is incredible at putting out heat, and has without question surpassed my expectations in terms of what I thought was possible from a fireplace insert.
Lennox® Montlake™ Fireplace Insert Conclusion
Should you consider the Lennox® Montlake™ fireplace insert? If you have an existing wood-burning fireplace, then the answer is unequivocally yes. It takes all the great elements of a fireplace – the romance, the beauty, the warmth – and it eliminates the inefficiency inherent to them. Installation is incredibly quick and painless, and within a day you can be well on your way to heating your home with wood while significantly reducing your home’s heating costs.
In truth, if I knew then what I know now, I would have bought the Montlake™ the day I bought my home. With its limited lifetime warranty, it’s a purchase that will likely last for the lifetime of my home, not only adding home value and saving me a tremendous amount on utility bills, but also keeping the magic that only a wood-fueled fire offers. If you have a fireplace, I honestly can’t recommend a Lennox® insert enough.
You can learn more about the Lennox® Montlake™ fireplace insert at the official Lennox® website, or see more of my Lennox® Montlake™ installation in the photo gallery below.