Commitment to Honesty and Integrity
Bennett Air Conditioner Recycling Maximizes Value
When it comes to business, Bobby Bennett, owner of Bennett Air Conditioner Recycling in DeSoto, Texas, knows that honesty and integrity are everything. “Metal recycling is a cash-based business. When we haul off multi-ton air conditioning units and chillers to the scrapyard for recycling, customers know I’ll be back with their share of the proceeds,” he says.
Bennett has built his highly successful business by seeing value in what others often overlook. Bennett Air Conditioner Recycling removes air conditioning (AC) units and chillers from client sites and company yards throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. A team of nine employees then breaks down these units into their component parts, earning money from the sale of copper, electric motors, wire, coils, Freon refrigerant and even the tin frame. “If you dumped a fully assembled 20,000-pound unit at the scrapyard, you might earn $1,000. By breaking down the unit into component parts, we can earn $5,000 on that same unit. We then split the proceeds with the customer, right down the middle,” he says.
Although mechanical and AC companies traditionally have technicians break down units at the company’s yard, Bennett says it’s a waste of their time and talents. “These technicians are making $20 to $25 an hour breaking down units into scrap when they could be out there serving customers and earning the company money. We not only maximize profits on that scrap, but we save the company manpower and help to keep the company yard clean,” he says.
In addition to hauling off residential units, Bennett Air Conditioner Recycling removes large commercial AC units and chillers that weigh up to 35,000 pounds. “One day we might have ninety 2- to 4-ton residential units to move. The next day, it could be a 400-ton chiller that needs to be lifted from a rooftop. We’re fully equipped to handle any size job,” Bennett says.
The company works closely with six different subcontractors and has access to 28- and 34-foot gooseneck trailers and dollies, as well as a 53-foot flatbed trailer. “We carry $1 million in liability insurance and take safety very seriously,” Bennett adds.
Once disassembled, a unit’s component parts are recycled in a variety of ways. “The old metal is melted down to create new metal, the copper goes to the refinery and is converted into copper piping, the motors and compressors are refurbished into new AC units, and even the Freon is reused,” Bennett says. He explains that the R-22 Freon refrigerant that comes out of an old AC unit is very valuable, typically selling for $100 a pound. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies R-22 refrigerant as an ozone-depleting substance (ODS) and is phasing out new production and import of R-22 by 2020. “A small residential AC unit contains up to five pounds of refrigerant when fully charged. We work with a subcontractor to sell this R-22 Freon for $10 a pound,” he says.
Persistence Pays Off
Building a multimillion-dollar business has taken a great deal of persistence, according to Bennett. In 2011, he and his wife, Deborah, relocated to Dallas from their home in Chicago. “Years ago, a friend told me I could make $200 a day collecting and selling scrap metal. I purchased a truck for $800 and began my business in Chicago. One night, God woke me up in the middle of the night and told me that he wanted me to move to Dallas. We sold everything and moved,” he says.
That first year, the couple lived out of a Motel 6. During those early days, Bennett drove the streets of Dallas in search of scrap metal. “I was scrapping in an old raggedy Ford pickup truck. People thought I looked suspicious and would call the police. My first Christmas out here, I spent a night in jail after someone called the cops. Even when I put a company sign on my truck with my phone number, people still called the police. I’d get pulled over and the police would have my truck towed. That truck was impounded 10 or 12 times. I remember thinking, ‘God, you called me out here, and I’m going to jail for trying to provide for my family.’ I thought there had to be a better way,” he says.
That better way came when Bennett met Barry Jenkins of Professional Service Co., a local heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) business. He recalls, “I had stopped in looking for metal scraps, and Barry showed me a 350-ton chiller located in their yard. He told me there was 1,000 pounds of copper inside the tube, and if I could get to that copper, he’d split the profits. I rented chop saws and other equipment and spent a day and a half getting all the copper out. When I was done, I had $4,000 worth of copper. It was then that I made the decision to focus solely on the air conditioning industry.”
Business grew rapidly, and today, Bennett Air Conditioner Recycling has a section of the scrapyard dedicated just to his company. In just an hour and a half, Bennett’s nine employees can disassemble chillers the same size as that first one Bennett tackled.
Offering Folks a Second Chance
Bennett’s employees are very special to him. “They’re what I call ‘second-chance’ people—some were homeless, others are recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, and some are former felons who are trying to make better lives for themselves. I help people when others won’t,” he says.
Bennett feels called to help people remake their lives. “I’m a second-chance person myself. I’m a recovering alcoholic. I used to deal drugs and was nearly sentenced to 17 years in a federal penitentiary. A man in Chicago offered me a lifeline. I lived in his basement for three years and found God. I started a business because when you’re a former felon, no one will hire you. How can you start over when no one will give you a chance? I give these people a chance and encourage them to give back to others as well,” he says.
In addition to hiring “second-chance” people, Bennett donates 30 percent of the company’s profits to charity. “I actively serve at The Potter’s House church in Dallas. We give to Potter’s House, Trinity Broadcasting Network and to Austin Street Center, a shelter that serves the city’s homeless. I’ve always believed it’s important to be charitable. The more you give away, the more comes back to you,” he says.
Bennett Air Conditioner Recycling counts some of Dallas’ largest mechanical and HVAC companies among its clients, including Crocker Crane, Baker Brothers Plumbing & Air Conditioning, Temple Mechanical Co., Berkeys Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical, New Generation Mechanical, and Professional Service Co.
“Barry once told me that the reason people do business with me is because I’m honest and have integrity,” Bennett says. “In today’s world, that’s rare. Trust is everything in this business. Customers know that I do what I say I’m going to do. I work very hard, and I never give up.”