What is CARB Compliant Generator?

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Almost 99% of the population is exposed to outdoor air pollution and low-quality air every day, according to WHO. It’s high time we take this threat seriously and do everything in our power to keep the air clean. This is where CARB compliance comes in. Of course, there are many ways to contribute. But if you’re getting a new generator, you should definitely look into CARB regulations and make sure you know what a CARB-compliant generator is.

What is CARB Compliant?

To understand what CARB compliant means, you first need to know what CARB stands for. CARB, or the California Air Resources Board, is an agency within the California government which is in charge of taking care of air pollution. Since internal combustion engines play a huge role in air quality (or lack thereof), California was the first to introduce rules and strict regulations pertaining to such emissions. These emissions include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, etc., which are responsible for nearly 20% of air pollution.

This is where CARB-compliant models of generators come in. They are certified to meet the air pollution standards set by this agency. This means that they run cleaner and safer than a non CARB compliant generator, with less harmful emissions. CARB compliance doesn’t mean that the generator is completely harmless to the environment. Since it has an internal combustion engine that burns fuel, it’s bound to release toxic gases. However, by meeting CARB standards, the damage is brought to a minimum.

Please note that CARB-compliant generators don’t mean that the generator is safe for indoor use. These engines burn fossil fuels (gasoline, propane, diesel) to work. Thus they emit carbon monoxide, which is a colorless, odorless gas that can cause carbon monoxide poisoning when inhaled. As a result, generators are for outdoor use only where there is plenty of space and airflow.

What is EPA or EPA III?

Similar to CARB, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has its own set of rules which is less strict than CARB. If your portable generator meets EPA regulations, you can run it anywhere except in California. On the other hand, CARB generators meet all the EPA rules and a couple of extra ones. If you’re deciding between EPA vs. CARB generators, CARB compliant equipment is a safer bet because you can run it anywhere without risking a fine.

carb compliant vs epa generators


Besides the California Air Resources Board, the US has another federal agency that also has the task of protecting the environment. While EPA compliance applies to the entire US, CARB regulations are required just in California. CARB standards are much stricter compared to EPA. But regardless of that, these standards are adopted by other states in the US.

CARB States and Non-CARB Compliant States

Here’s a list of states within the US that adopts CARB regulations and where you’d need to make sure you own and operate a CARB compliant generator:

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington DC.

CARB Compliant vs. Non-CARB Compliant Generators

As we said previously, a CARB-compliant generator meets certain criteria set by the environmental protection agency in charge of air quality. That doesn’t mean that non-compliant generators don’t meet these criteria, but they haven’t been certified by CARB.

For a portable generator to be CARB approved, it has to have a CARB compliant engine. This means that the engine manufacturers have to produce and test the engine to meet their criteria. The other part of certification applies to the equipment manufacturer, who must prove to the CARB that the engine is certified or get certification for their own parts. As you can see, the focus is on the engine.

Engines Before and After CARB Rules

To meet all their rigid standards, manufacturers needed to improve their products substantially. There are several ways in how engines changed after CARB rules went into power.

Firstly, they worked on the exhaust. The goal was twofold – prevent the creation of pollutants and neutralize them before they get released from the engine into the air. Secondly, CARB compliant engines have limited/reduced evaporative emissions. For instance, controlled fuel vapor that gets released. Finally, engines after CARB regulations influenced the prices of generators, but you can expect only the upfront cost to be a bit higher. Rest assured that you are getting the best product on the market and that it will pay off in the long run.

How Does a CARB Certification Label Look Like?

All generators that adopted CARB standards will have the label denoting the engine family (EF) and evaporative family (EVF). Besides these, the label will have various letters and numbers, all denoting a specific meaning. The information that the label displays is usually the year of the model, the manufacturer code, the sector, the displacement in cm3, engine class, etc. These labels further classify the engine.

Why Choose CARB Compliance?

carb compliant generators

If you’re not from one of the states where CARB compliance is required by law, is there a valid reason to still choose a compliant generator? Yes, there is! In fact, there are several reasons.

  1. Whether you’re bound by law or not, you indeed care about protecting yourself and your family. By taking care of air quality, you’re doing just that. Not only are you exposing your family to fewer air pollutants, but by doing this, you’re also contributing to a greater good and protecting the environment in general. Change starts on an individual level, and as a regular generator user, you can help to take a step in the right direction.
  2. CARB compliant generators are the best models in the market. If you don’t care about the environment, you surely care about getting the best generator on the market for your money. These units feature high-quality, durable materials and components. Not only are they reliable, but they are also highly fuel-efficient, which saves you a lot of money in the long run.

The ultimate goal of what CARB regulates is to achieve better air quality. Since their implementation of these rules, they have been very successful in that. One of the reasons for that is their regulations also encompass small engines, of which there are millions (17, to be precise) in California. Small engines are common in portable generators, lawn and garden equipment, tools, etc. Since many people use them, it has shown to be very beneficial to regulate their emission.

What is CSA Certified Generators?

While EPA and CARB regulate air quality and take care of our environment in the US. CSA (Canadian Standard Association) makes sure that the products we use are safe. Their work is comparable to UL (Underwriters Laboratories), which is a US organization that has a similar role. All electrical products need to be certified by CSA or UL in Canada, and that includes generators. 


What does CARB mean in generators?

CARB compliant generators meet CARB rules, which control air pollutant emissions, thereby protecting air quality. These rules are set by an environmental protection agency in California.

How do I know if my generator is CARB compliant?

To become CARB compliant, generator manufacturers have to go through lengthy and expensive testing to prove that they meet their criteria to the CARB. You’ll be able to check if your generator is certified in the instructions manual.

What is the difference between EPA III and CARB generators?

CARB generators meet stricter air pollution rules than EPA III-certified generators. This means you can run them anywhere, while EPA-compliant generators cannot run in California.

What is the difference between CARB compliant and non CARB compliant?

Non-CARB compliant generators didn’t get CARB certified, which means they either don’t meet their standards or haven’t invested in testing necessary to get the certification. In any case, you can’t run a non CARB compliant generator in California, whether it has all the necessary parts or not.

Why can’t generators be shipped to California?

Since California has its own regulations regarding tailpipe emission standards, exhaust emissions, etc., they require all generators to be CARB compliant. If a generator doesn’t meet CARB rules, it cannot get shipped to California.

Final Thoughts

At this point in the 21st century, we’re all aware of the number of harmful emissions. And how bad they actually are for both our environment and the population. Riding a bike to work instead of going by car, carpooling, or using a CARB-compliant generator is something you can start doing tomorrow to make your contribution to the cause. Besides that, it’s a win-win. Not only will you get cleaner air, but you’ll also get a reliable engine, made to last for years and serve you properly.