What is CARB compliant?
For over five decades, the state of California has been the world leader in air quality pollution control. Today the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is tasked with controlling and managing air pollutants in the state. This applies mostly to emission levels of harmful gasses from internal combustion engines.
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The effects of CARB regulations are far-reaching and it means that any engine that uses a combustible fuel (gas, diesel or propane) needs to be CARB certified. This a certificate that ensures that these engines comply with state regulations stipulating the levels of harmful gasses that are emitted from the exhaust systems of these engines. CARB also controls the quality of fuel that is sold in the state.
This means that any machine that uses an internal combustion engine (from cars to generators, lawnmowers, and chainsaws) needs to be certified as being CARB compliant before it can be sold or used in California. California was the first state to recognize the importance of air quality regulation measures and their history goes back a long way.
The first recorded incident of harmful air pollution in Los Angeles was in 1943. The city was engulfed in a heavy wave of smog and residents complained of many health disorders as a result. Blame was first attributed to industry, most notably a butadiene factory close to the city. However, after the factory was closed, the air pollution problem continued. As a result, the Los Angeles County Air Pollution District was formed. This was the first institution of its kind in the US. Their role was to identify and monitor the air pollution from industrial and power generation plants.
By the 1950s it was realized that motor vehicles were, in fact, the biggest cause of air pollution in the State. Research conducted by Caltech professor, Dr. Arie Hargen-Smit, deduced that Hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen, emitted from internal combustion engines were to blame for the excessive air pollution in California. This led to the formation of the Bureau of Air Sanitation (a division of the California Health Department). In 1966, California instituted the first tailpipe emission standards in the US.
In 1967, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) was established. Three years later the Federal Government instituted the Federal Clean Air Act that set the standard for emission regulations throughout the US. This act made provision for the autonomy of CARB, taking into account the unique climatic and topographic situation of California and its effect on the increased importance of air quality control in the state.
Through the decades that followed, California became the foremost authority on vehicle emission levels. Leading to several inventions and measures to control both the emission of harmful gasses from motor vehicles and toxic elements in the fuel that is used. Among these was the catalytic converter for exhaust systems and lead-free fuel.
Today CARB remains the most stringent of all air quality regulatory authorities in the US. All other states require that vehicles and equipment that use an internal combustion engine are EPA compliant. EPA compliance is a Federal certification applying to all internal combustion engines sold in the US. While EPA compliance is similar to CARB compliance, California has its own set of regulations. This means that if an engine is EPA compliant, it may be sold anywhere in the US, except California. In order to sell an engine-driven machine in California, it has to be CARB compliant.
Both EPA and CARB compliance have several tiers, with new regulations being introduced over the years. The most recent are tier III for both CARB and EPA compliance. The guidelines for compliance are complex and engine manufacturers need to adhere to a number of factors. The rules applying to either EPA or CARB compliance differs according to the type of engine and its intended use. For example, a road vehicle will have a different standard to an off-road vehicle and handheld engines (like chainsaws) will have another set of standards.
Engine manufacturers need to register with the relevant authorities and apply for certification in order to sell their products in the US and they’ll need to apply for CARB certification separately if they intend selling their product in California. This means that, even though an engine might meet all the criteria for CARB (or EPA) certification, they cannot sell their product in the area concerned unless they have received a certification from either EPA or CARB.
CARB COMPLIANT Power Equipment
To achieve CARB compliance, manufacturers often use cleaner engine technologies in their power tools and generators. Four-stroke engines are known for their higher fuel efficiency and lower emissions of pollutants such as particulate matter, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide. This helps to reduce the amount of harmful pollutants that are released into the air, improving air quality and protecting public health.
For chainsaws, CARB compliance is often achieved by using cleaner-burning fuel systems and exhaust emission control technologies. For example, many chainsaw brands, such as Stihl and Husqvarna, use catalytic converters, which convert harmful pollutants such as hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides into less harmful substances, and also use fuel injection systems that help to reduce emissions. Additionally, carburetors are adjusted to provide the optimal air-fuel mixture, which also helps to reduce emissions. These technologies help to reduce the amount of harmful pollutants released into the air, making chainsaws more environmentally friendly.
Regarding portable generators, CARB compliance is often achieved by using engines that are designed to meet emissions standards. For example, many generator brands, such as Honda and Yamaha, use four-stroke engines that are equipped with emissions control technologies, such as catalytic converters and air-injection systems, which help to reduce how much toxic pollutants are released into the atmosphere. The carburetors in these engines are designed to provide the optimal air-fuel mixture, which helps to reduce emissions and might even improve overall performance. Ultimately, the goal is to make portable generators more environmentally friendly and CARB compliant.
Using cleaner technologies does not necessarily negatively impact the performance of power tools and generators. In fact, many CARB compliant tools and generators are more fuel-efficient, produce less noise, and have a longer lifespan, making them a better investment for homeowners.
It’s worth noting that many states, including New York and New Jersey, have considered adopting similar standards to California’s in recent years. This is due to the growing recognition of the importance of reducing air pollution and protecting public health.
In terms of other countries, some countries, such as the European Union, have similar air emission standards for small off-road engines. These standards are designed to reduce harmful pollutants and improve air quality.
As for why the entire US doesn’t adopt CARB, it’s a complex issue that involves a number of factors, including the political and economic landscape. Some opponents argue that CARB standards are too strict and place a burden on industry, while others believe that the standards are necessary to protect public health and the environment. Ultimately, the decision to adopt CARB or similar standards is a matter of balancing the needs of industry and the environment, as well as considering the views of various stakeholders.
Are You Aware of Bill 1346?
Assembly Bill No. 1346 is a piece of legislation aimed at reducing air pollution in California. The bill requires the state’s Air Resources Board to adopt regulations, by July 1, 2022, to prohibit engine exhaust and evaporative emissions from new small off-road engines, such as those used in lawn and garden equipment. These regulations are to be cost-effective and technologically feasible and apply to engines produced on or after January 1, 2024, or as soon as feasible.
The bill recognizes the harmful effects of emissions from these engines on public health and aims to encourage the state board to act expeditiously to protect public health. The board must consider various factors, including expected timelines for zero-emission small off-road equipment development and expected availability of zero-emission generators and emergency response equipment, while determining technological feasibility. The bill also requires the state board to identify and make available funding for commercial rebates or similar incentives to support the transition to zero-emission small off-road equipment operations.
This will have a major impact on people who use a backup generator for their RV, or for anyone who has a portable generator as home backup. I suppose anybody who owns a gas generator can continue to use but for anyone who wants a generator in the future, will have to choose an alternative. I’m going to assume that backup battery power stations will be the alternative to traditional gas generators. These types are all solar ready if hooked up to solar panels, they can be recharged. Personally, I think these type of generators are excellent, and they’ve evolved quickly over the past few years.
Brands like ECOFLOW, Jackery, Bluetti and Tesla, have been developing their solar generator technology to the point where they can replace gas generators. Advanced solar power stations like the ECOFLOW Delta Pro is an impressive generator but it costs over 4x more than a comparable inverter generator. This isn’t a trivial amount of money. Subsidize would be necessary to make them affordable. Generator manufacturers are going to be scrambling to feed the needs of California when it comes to backup power.