Rick Green (center, standing) and Alan Hartman (far right) pose for a photo with the Tinbenders crew. The duo are heading into their 30th year in business together.

Rick Green and Alan Hartman have been serving heating and air conditioning clients for three decades.

Having met by happenstance — and first becoming friends — the duo wound up going into business together, and are heading into the 30th year of their partnership.

Hartman and Green met in the early 1980s when Green’s car ran off the road, in Callaway, and Hartman, who was driving by, stopped to offer assistance.

It wasn’t long before Green went to work doing custom woodwork in the same place as Hartman, solidifying their friendship as they worked side-by-side.

“We got to know each other real good, got to be friends,” Green said. “I was in his wedding, sabotaged his car.”

Green decided to return to working in the HVAC business though, as he had been raised in the industry, with his father putting in nearly 30 years. Green talked Hartman into working in the HVAC industry as well.

“We went to work for the same place, and after a couple years, we decided we’d been doing (HVAC) long enough, maybe we ought to go out on our own,” Green said.

They named the business Tinbenders, because they made their own custom metal work — and still do when warranted. They also made and installed custom metal roofs to help offset initial costs, but their bread and butter was installing and servicing HVAC equipment, gas and oil furnaces, heat pumps and air conditioners.

As the company grew, they began hiring employees and have nine total employees today.

“Right now we got good guys working for us,” Green said.

“It’s a blessing,” Hartman added.

In 1995, Tinbenders was approached by WaterFurnace International, an alternative heating and cooling company. That’s when Green and Hartman began working with geothermal technology, which uses renewable energy rather than burning fossil fuels. Hartman said the pair was energy-efficient minded and were sealing ductwork before it was “the thing to do.”

Hartman said using geothermal technology, which exchanges heat with the ground instead of outdoor air, results in an efficiency rating of 400%. However in Franklin County, or Virginia as a state, there aren’t as many people turning to geothermal because of the upfront costs. Green said it costs twice as much as a standard HVAC system, but the savings in the long run more than makes up for the initial costs.

“The savings is great in the long run,” Green said. “You could have a house that costs $300 to heat, and (with geothermal) it goes down to $80 a month. It doesn’t take long to pay for itself.”

While geothermal technology is a big part of Tinbenders’ business, Green said they specialize in odd systems as well.

“We do what the other guys won’t,” he said.

One example is the work Tinbenders did on Virginia Tech’s FutureHAUS project, which earned global recognition at the Solar Decathlon Middle East in Dubai last year. The concept of the house was to combine modular construction and cutting-edge technology.

The company’s service area includes Franklin, Floyd, Craig and Roanoke counties, as well as Blacksburg and Christiansburg. While the business does primarily residential work, they are expanding more to the commercial side, including working on the Floyd County Library and the firehouse in Floyd, along with two breweries in Blacksburg.

The secret to lasting 30 years is “endurance and fight,” Hartman said laughing. Green jokingly added, “We haven’t come to blows yet.”

Hartman and Green said they are looking forward to the next 30 years. Tinbenders, located at 422 Wades Gap Road in Callaway, services all brands of HVAC equipment, electric, gas, oil or geothermal. They primarily are a Trane and Mitsubishi Diamond dealer and can install heat pump, gas, oil, geothermal, minisplit, boilers, on-demand water heaters and radiant floor heat.

More information is at tinbendersinc.com.

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