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What is a CARB Compliant Generator? What Does it Mean and Do I need One?
In this short informative guide we'll discuss CARB compliance for generators, answer some common questions shoppers have about these regulations, and how they might affect your buying decision when choosing the best portable generator for your specific situation.
What is CARB?
CARB is a government agency that works to improve the regional air quality in California. CARB stands for California Air Resources Board. They focus on putting regulations in place meaning businesses and individuals need to take steps to reduce air pollution from sources such as car exhaust emissions, factories and power plants, along with everyday items used by many people, such as backup, stationary and portable generators along with other tools and pieces of power equipment.
What does the California Air Resources Board do?
The CARB agency conducts research, creates regulations, and educates the public on ways to reduce pollution, while also taking into account the economic impact of their actions. Their stated goal is to protect public health, the environment and the welfare of anyone living in California. The CARB regulations affect generators quite considerably, so you'll need to use a CARB approved model if you're in California or one of the other states which have implemented these regulations (see below).
Luckily, there are lots of approved generator options to choose from and retailers such as ourselves here at Epic Generators will not sell non CARB compliant generators to people shopping in California.
So what is a CARB compliant generator?
A CARB compliant generator is simply a generator that has been certified by the California Air Resources Board to meet the state's emissions standards for various pollutants such as Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, particulate matter, and many other gases emitted by internal combustion engines.
These strict regulations are more comprehensive than the federal standards and manufacturers have to pass testing and certification processes to be able to sell and operate in California. Generators that are compliant with these standards emit less pollutants, are considered more environmentally friendly, and meet the state's requirements for air quality.
What does non CARB compliant mean for generators?
If a generator is non CARB compliant it simply means it's internal combustion engine does not meet the strict emissions standards and so cannot be used or sold in California or in other states which use the CARB rules.
What are the Benefits of Choosing CARB Compliant Generators?
If you don't currently live in California or any of the states which implement the CARB regulations (list below), it is natural to wonder whether you need to choose one of the approved models with a CARB compliant engine or not, and if it is worth it.
You might be thinking that surely all generators sold to the general public need to meet strict health and safety standards from the Environmental Protection Agency, which is a federal organization?
While that is true, CARB goes one step further and there are benefits of choosing a CARB compliant generators when possible, rather than ones with non CARB compliant engines:
Health and safety. The truth is that overall CARB compliant generators simply emit fewer pollutants compared to other models. This is of course better for the health of anyone using a generator, along with environment.
Highest product quality. CARB compliant generators are often some of the most advanced on the market - designed, manufactured, and tested to the highest standards.
Peace of mind. Knowing your generator is one of the cleanest available, with fewer emissions than many other models, will likely make you feel more comfortable using it. Also, if other states adopt CARB regulations in the future then you're already prepared.
Generator brands who make CARB compliant models
Above you'll see Firman's popular CARB approved T08071 generator, a high performance tri-fuel model which can be powered by three different fuel types. Despite this, it still meets all of the necessary regulations for use in California.
You'll be please to know that all major brands make portable generators which comply with the regulations.
In most cases the majority of their product lines are all compliant, especially with the latest models. There is a definite trend to towards reduced air pollution and improving air quality in the world - and the generator market is no different.
Some leading brands with a wide range of CARB compliant portable generators include:
You can see our full range of CARB compliant generators here.
There are hundreds of bestselling models to choose in all price ranges, from reputable brands. All of the most popular types of portable generators are available in multiple CARB friendly options including tri-fuel models, dual-fuel models, and of course inverter generators which are popular for their low THD.
A note on zero emission generators (AKA portable power stations)
Interestingly, there are many companies making high performing backup power solutions which have zero emissions because they're powered by rechargeable batteries, usually lithium ion. They don't use any kind of fuel such as gasoline or propane. These products are not the regular portable generators many people are used to. They're usually called portable power stations.
These are not as powerful as many gas, propane, or natural gas generators on the market and so aren't always a suitable replacement, but we're seeing them rise in popularity.
Portable power stations are great for use indoors in enclosed spaces, especially in apartments with no outside space, or for all kinds of off-grid or outoor adventures adventures such as camping and hiking trips - they can often be recharged via solar panels as well.
Some of the leading brands in this space include EcoFlow which we sell here, and Bluetti which you can find here. These models are of course the greenest and most environmentally friendly portable power solutions available - they comply with any and all regulations related to emissions, because they don't emit anything! They also make almost no noise whatsoever, which is a nice bonus.
If you want help choosing between all of the different kinds of generators and backup power options on the market, be sure to check out our buying guide for portable generator models.
Here are some common questions related to portable generators and CARB compliance in California and the other states using these regulations.
Can I use a non CARB compliant generator in California?
No, you cannot use a non-CARB compliant generator in California. The regulations enforce strict standards to protect air quality and reduce emissions of harmful gases. With this in mind, any generator you purchase to use in California - or the other CARB states - must be CARB certified by the manufacturer.
What is the difference between an EPA generator and a CARB generator?
An EPA generator meets the EPA guidelines, whereas a CARB generator meets both the EPA guidelines and also the California Air Resources Board guidelines which are stricter around toxic air pollutants.
The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA is a federal government agency who publish their own set of regulations designed to achieve similar outcomes to the CARB rules. Generally EPA compliance is easier to achieve than CARB compliance - the minimum standards are less strict.
So you could say that on average CARB compliant generators are more environmentally friendly than generators which are EPA approved but don't meet CARB standards.
The EPA guidelines and regulations apply to all US states, so every generator sold or used in the US must comply with them. However, CARB compliance is only mandated in California and a few other states which use the CARB regulations (see below for list).
Which states are CARB compliant?
The following list of states are the CARB states and have actively implemented the regulations created by California to protect air quality and reduce air pollution:
Washington District of Columbia
A number of other states are currently working on legislation to implement the CARB standards, or their own similar versions. Keep this in mind as we expect the list of states to grow considerably over time.
How is a CARB compliant generator different from a non CARB compliant one?
The difference between a CARB-compliant generator vs non a compliant model is that the compliant models emit fewer harmful emissions, are rated to be more environmentally friendly, and so can be used in the CARB states - which non compliant generator models cannot.
A generator which satisfies the regulations is generally 'greener' and better for the environment on average, with less toxic gas emissions.
Does my generator need to be CARB compliant?
If you're in one of the CARB states then yes, your generator needs to be CARB compliant and meet the regulations. The CARB states are listed above. If you're outside of these states there is no requirement, however many people choose to buy generators which do meet the guidelines because they emit less toxic gases and so cause less air pollution, and are safer to use for extended periods of time if you're the generator's operator.
How can you tell if a generator is CARB compliant?
CARB compliant generators are clearly marked with a label by the manufacturer. Also, any retailer you're purchasing a generator from will include information in the listing around compliance with CARB.
It will be very obvious that you're buying a generator which satisfies the requirements in the CARB rules.