Sunny Ruthchild, local farmer and entrepreneur, is taking a 107-year old building on Main Street in Milroy and bringing it into the 21st Century.


Sunny Ruthchild, local farmer and entrepreneur, is taking a 107-year old building on Main Street in Milroy and bringing it into the 21st Century.
The building is the old Milroy State Bank, which is a solid brick structure. Ruthchild picked the building and adjoining lots up at auction for around $1,000.00.
But that initial cost is a drop in the bucket compared to what she has put into the building thus far, and will put in in the future.
Ruthchild has put on a new roof, redone the floors inside, put in high-efficiency windows and a geothermal heat pump system.
And Ruthchild will be the first to admit the structure has a long way to go before it suitable for a planned bakery, chocolate factory and upstairs apartments.
Ruthchild’s pride and joy, besides the building itself, is the geothermal heat pump system she had put in.
“The wells we had dug for this system are 185-feet deep,” Ruthchild said. “The pipes are 250-feet long, so they are kind of circular. When you get down to 185 feet, the temperature is really very constant at 55 degrees.
“So the fluid from the heat pump system goes down there. If the fluid is cooler than 55 degrees, it gains heat. A pump compresses the fluid, which increases the a-mount of heat present, a fan blows over it and you have forced air heat."
The advantageous thing about this system, Ruthchild commented, is that it can be reversed in the summer to act as an air conditioner.
For most areas, this means that soil temperatures are usually warmer than the air in winter and cooler than the air in summer.
Geothermal heat pumps use the Earth's constant temperatures to heat and cool buildings. They transfer heat from the ground (or water) into buildings in winter and reverse the process in the summer.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), geothermal heat pumps are the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean, and cost-effective systems for temperature control.
Although most homes still use traditional furnaces and air conditioners, geothermal heat pumps are becoming more popular.
In recent years, the U.S. Department of Energy along with the EPA have partnered with industry to promote the use of geothermal heat pumps.
"We dug five wells outside that will feed the heat pump system," Ruthchild said. "The system wasn't cheap, but I got a (business) grant to help with the cost of labor, which was about $7,500.00.
"The disadvantage is that the system is quite expensive. But for every kilowatt of energy you put in, you get five out, so it is extremely efficient. Over the long haul, and that is the way you have to look at it, the system will pay for itself."
According to the Consumer Energy Center, as a rule of thumb, a geothermal heat pump system costs about $2,500 per ton of capacity. The typically sized home would use a three-ton unit costing roughly $7,500.
That initial cost is nearly twice the price of a regular heat pump system that would probably cost about $4,000, with air conditioning.
You will have to, however, add the cost of drilling to this total amount. The final cost will depend on whether your system will drill vertically deep underground or will put the loops in a horizontal fashion a shorter distance below ground.
The cost of drilling can run anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000, or more depending on the terrain and other local factors.
Added to an already built home an replacing an existing HVAC unit, an efficient geothermal system saves enough on utility bills that the investment can be recouped in five to ten years.
Ruthchild said that energy-wise the structure has a few other advantages. For starters it is an old bank, and the exterior walls are double masonry, which are extremely efficient at retaining heat once they are warm.
"Now that we have installed a geothermal heating and cooling system, which should work well in a structure with thick walls like this, we should leave virtually no carbon footprint," Ruthchild said. "It's an amazing thought."