IIAR Remembers

Chuck Hansen

Chuck Hansen, a serial entrepreneur who was always at the center of things, passionately expanding connections and networks to advance the natural refrigeration industry, build his visionary products, and mentor the next generation of engineers, has passed away at the age of 100.

Hansen was the founder of Hansen Technologies and Hantemp Controls, two of six companies he built and sold, and one of the founders of the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration.

“When you think about the valve technology footprint in this country, you can trace it all back to Chuck Hansen,” said Santhosh Kumar, president of Hansen Technologies. “And what he contributed even more than the products was the mentoring of people who continue to serve the industry. He inspired so many people to come work in this industry, that is his legacy. For me, it all started with Chuck. He took a chance on me and lived his passion for innovation.”

Santhosh, who came to industrial refrigeration right out of college, and immediately began working at Hansen Technologies was one of many people Chuck personally mentored. Friends and colleagues remembered Chuck as someone who genuinely cared about their future and the future of ammonia refrigeration.

“He was a very good leader and coach,” said Mike Effrein, General Manager of Hantemp Controls, another early convert to ammonia refrigeration who recounted that he had no experience in industrial refrigeration when Chuck “encouraged me to jump in and give it a shot.” “That’s how he was. Nobody got left behind on his team, nobody sat on the bench. He brought everyone up with him.”

Chuck was interested in building a legacy through people beyond just his life, said Harold Streicher, IIAR member, past IIAR board member, and principal innovation officer for Hansen Technologies. “He was a mentor for me and someone who allowed me to grow in our industry. Chuck put the time effort and resources towards people. He was very good at identifying talent, but more importantly, developing and investing in talent.”

Each of Chuck’s companies offered generous tuition incentives to employees and an eventual endowment to MIT fully funded a perpetual fellowship in thermodynamics, but perhaps one of Chuck’s most well-remembered contributions to industrial refrigeration was the formation of IIAR.

Chuck, with several other colleagues, founded the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration in response to pending government regulations that threatened the industry’s use of ammonia in industrial refrigeration. IIAR’s purpose, as envisioned by Chuck and several other founders, was to create an organization to educate and reassure regulators that ammonia could be safe and controlled using appropriate methods.

John Yencho, former VP of engineering for Hansen Technologies and employee of 35 years remembers Chuck’s involvement in IIAR’s formation as another example of his foresight and lifelong focus on innovation.

“Chuck knew that for ammonia refrigeration to see wider adoption, we needed to show that it was safer to use. His real love was creating new products. Looking at the industry and making sure it stayed healthy and was growing as far as valves and controls were concerned,” and beyond that, making sure everyone stayed connected and invested in each other’s work through industry organizations like IIAR.

“He was just one step ahead of everybody when it came to where the market was going and the future of where industrial refrigeration was going,” said Yencho. “His main contribution was to help advance [valve] technology to where we are today.”

Chuck realized that valves and control technology was at the epicenter of safety, Yencho said. “He started converting older-style flange valves that had been in use for ages to weld-in-line valve construction. And he switched from cast iron to all steel valves so they could be welded directly to the pipe, significantly reducing leakage.”

“His innovations helped in all valve designs.”

Kumar emphasized that Chuck was focused on innovation, a value that got baked into Hansen’s identity as a company. “He always said to me, solve the industry’s most difficult problems, and do it most uniquely.”

Before founding Hansen Technologies, Chuck started his industrial refrigeration career at Refrigerating Specialties, the family business founded by his grandfather.

Under Chuck’s leadership, RS grew significantly and introduced a wave of new products which allowed it to expand into international markets. He eventually sold the company to Parker Hannifin where he became a group vice-president.

Chuck then left Parker Hannifin after several years to start Hansen Technologies, which was eventually sold to Roper Industries. After Hansen Technologies, Chuck founded Hantemp Controls, at the age of 90.

Even in the last decade of his life, Chuck was spotting technology opportunities, said Hantemp’s Effrein.

At Hantemp, Chuck and his team introduced high-capacity stainless steel ball valves rated at a higher pressure than traditional valves, offering higher flow capacity.

“Especially for full port ball valves, they significantly reduce the pressure drop in suction lines which reduces energy consumption,” said Effrein. “He saw the potential for that, and we’ve come full circle because one of our biggest concerns now as an industry is energy consumption.”

“Chuck was a force of nature unto itself,” said Effrein. “We need people like that in our industry. He was 100 percent committed to a cause and even more importantly – to everyone around him. He will be missed.”