Internal combustion engines such as portable generators convert fossil fuel to energy and produce undesirable emissions in the process. These emissions are of great concern because of their negative impacts on air quality, the atmosphere, and the planet. Therefore, there have been efforts both at the national and state levels to make laws that regulate the amount of carbon and other emissions produced by engines such as generators.
These regulations were, in the beginning, focused on on-road vehicles. But later on, in the 1990s, the regulations were expanded to include other small off-road engines such as portable power generators.
When deciding on the ideal portable generator to buy, you should consider other factors and not just the electricity generation capacity. Is your portable generator safe for your health and the environment? A generator with less than acceptable emission standards will pose a severe health risk to your household and the environment.
This is where the regulatory bodies come in. In the U.S, emissions and air pollution are regulated by two major organizations – the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB)
California Air Resources Board (CARB)
California was the first state to officially acknowledge the need to initiate laws to regulate air quality. In 1943 the city of Los Angeles was engulfed in heavy smog which affected the health of many residents. They believed it was due to industry, mainly a butadiene factory located just outside the city. However, after the factory was shut down, the air quality didn’t improve. This led to the formation of the Los Angeles County Air Pollution District in 1947. The body was tasked with identifying and monitoring air pollutants from industrial and power generation plants.
In the 1950s, research conducted by a Caltech professor found that hydrocarbons from gasoline and oxides of nitrogen from internal combustion engines were, in fact, responsible for the poor air quality in California. This led to the creation of the Bureau of Air Sanitation. California also introduced the first tailpipe emission standards in the US.
California Air Resources Board (CARB) was established in 1967. Shortly after, the federal government established the Federal Clean Air Act to set up standards for the regulation of emissions in the U.S. The act recognized the autonomy of CARB in part due to the unique physical characteristics of the state and its impact on air quality control.
The CARB is a California agency responsible for environmental protection matters, particularly air pollution. CARB’s duties include regulating the air quality as well as automobile pollution in California.Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have also adopted CARB standards. The fourteen states include Colorado, Delaware, Maine, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont, Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Nevada and Virginia are poised to adopt CARB standards starting in 2025.
What Does CARB Compliant Mean?
CARB compliant is frequently used in regard to generators, and refers to any kind of generator that meets the air pollution standards set by CARB. CARB compliant portable generators emit less pollutants than non-CARB compliant generators. That is not to say that they don’t emit any pollutants, but they emit far less than other non-compliant generators. Because CARB standards are stricter than that required in other states, CARB compliant generators are considered the most environmentally friendly and safest generators available.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
At the national level, the EPA is the body responsible for overseeing air pollution issues. The federal agency was established in 1970 in response to the growing concerns over public environmental matters which came to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s. The EPA was initially focused on preserving the natural environment and improving public health by keeping pollution in check. They monitor and control the production, distribution and use of chemicals and other pollutants.
More recently, the EPA expanded their scope to include the regulation of carbon emission from power plants, automobiles, small engines and other sources of air pollution. They set the standards on pollution in the U.S.
Therefore, equipment manufacturers with plans to sell in the U.S markets must conform to EPA regulations. Consequently, before a new engine or engine-driven equipment comes to the market, the EPA ensures it meets the acceptable standards before certifying it.
You can learn more about the regulations on small gasoline equipment at the EPA website.
Differences between CARB and EPA
While the two regulatory bodies have a lot in common, CARB compliance is usually stricter than the EPA. This makes a CARB compliant engine more attractive to most people. CARB compliance is mandatory in the state of California while EPA compliance covers all the states in the U.S.
Why does CARB and EPA compliance matter?
These regulations that guide the manufacturing of your portable generators are essential for several reasons:
- Reducing air pollution: air pollution is a serious environmental problem that impacts human health and accelerates the impacts of climate change. The EPA and CARB ensure that pollutants from complaint generators are at safe levels. So when you lose grid power, you also don’t have to lose your health.
- Risk of sanctions: using a non-CARB compliant generator in California or using a non-EPA compliant generator in other states of the U.S may result in being fined.
- High-quality generators: to minimize the release of harmful gases, CARB or EPA Compliant generators are built with the best components available. The parts are designed to produce more efficient, less-polluting energy. This results in generators that are durable as well as reliable. They are also more fuel efficient.
In closing, when next you are considering the purchase of a new generator, take care to check the manufacturer's specification sheets for CARB or EPA compliance. Even if you don’t live in California, it’s advisable you go for a CARB compliant generator;
It's better for the environment, for your health, and for your wallet!