What Is A Carb compliant Generator?

A CARB compliant generator is highly reliable and environmentally friendly. But you might not know in detail what CARB means and how it came into being. Generally, CARB-compliant generators have limited harmful emissions using advanced technology. This is maintained across all the engines that comply with the standard. Let’s find out more about these standards and how the manufacturers abide by them.

What is CARB? 

The abbreviation CARB stands for California Air Resources Board. California was the first state in the US to recognize the need for official laws related to air quality regulation. Once in 1943, Los Angeles city had completely engulfed by a cloud of heavy smog caused as a consequence of industrial activities. This affected the residents’ health, and a butadiene factory considered to have caused the problem also shut down. However, the problem persisted, and the Los Angeles County Air Pollution District was formed. This committee was appointed to identify the air pollutants and monitor the power generation plants and industrial businesses. This was the beginning that ultimately led to the formation of the CARB.

Carb compliant Generator

What Does the Term ‘CARB Compliant’ Mean?

CARB compliant means that it meets the standards related to air pollution set by CARB. When it comes to generators, the CARB compliant ones are more efficient and cleaner than the non-CARB compliant ones. Hence, it is evident that these are the safest and most environmentally friendly generators in the market. Generally, the CARB standards are much more strict than those of the other states.

What Does CARB Do?

The main objective of CARB is to limit the air pollution in the state of California caused by the emission of gases into the atmosphere. It also regulates the mechanical engines under proper standards to ensure that they comply with the laws and regulations. So primarily, CARB works to ensure that harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, reactive organic gases, and particulate matter are not emitted through the machinery.

What Is a CARB-compliant Generator?

A CARB-compliant generator refers to any generator that adheres to the air pollution standards declared by CARB. They run cleaner and emit fewer pollutants compared to non-CARB compliant generators. Hence, these are the most environmentally friendly and safest generators available.

How Does CARB Regulate Generators?

The state’s local air districts are responsible for ensuring the air quality of the region. So, they have collaborated in developing the CARB regulations for stationary and portable generators. They limit the Small Off-Road engines (SORE) from releasing pollutants that harm the atmosphere. This is done by controlling the following three categories.

  • Exhaust Emissions: Combustion of fossil fuel is inefficient in most engines. Thus, it causes the emission of many harmful gases. The proper function of carburetors, crankcase vent lines, fuel injection, and other controls are important in clean combustion.
  • Evaporative Emissions: Reactive gases and hydrocarbons can release into the atmosphere as a result of gas evaporating from fuel tanks and lines. Therefore, the quality of the materials, carbon canister, and pressure relief valve system are important in preventing evaporative emissions.
  • Spillage: Fuel may spill during use and refilling and result in adding toxic gases to the environment. Fuel leakage and spillage can be minimized with updated designs and standards for gas cans, fuel caps, etc.

What’s the Difference Between CARB and the EPA?

CARB vs EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) shares a lot in common, with the major difference being CARB is considerably stricter. Therefore, a CARB-compliant engine is more efficient and attractive. CARB is mandatory for the residents in California, while all other states require EPA compliance. 

What Is the Difference Between CARB-compliant and Non-CARB-compliant?

Non-CARB compliant engines are not certified by the procedure. Although it could comply with certain CARB regulations, the manufacturer has not undergone the necessary process of being CARB compliant. So, the product may not be effective and environmentally friendly as the CARB-compliant engines.

How Can You Tell if a Generator Is CARB-compliant?

You can check the following resources to determine whether your generator complies with CARB regulations or not.

  • Emissions Label: Check the emission label on the generator if you are physically examining the generators. The CARB-compliant label will read, “This engine meets U.S. EPA EXH/EVP and California SORE EXH/EVP regs for [year]”. In addition to this, the generator’s air index and emissions durability levels will also be indicated.
  • Manufacturer’s Website: You can also check whether your generator complies with CARB standards by checking the manufacturer’s website. If their products meet the specifications, they will list it among the features of your generator.
  • Retail Listings: When purchasing online by retailers, they will also add CARB compliance among the product features.

Features of a CARB-compliant Generator

The CARB regulations differ with each model and the type of fuel used by the generator. However, certain features are common for most CARB-compliant generators.

Transfer Switch

The transfer switch is a small board similar to the circuit breaker panel that can connect the generator to the utility panel of your home. It makes sure that the power flows only in one direction and will prevent any back-feeding of electricity to the grid. In order to direct the electricity safely to the electrical system, all generators should connect through a transfer switch. If your generator is CARB compliant, it will come ready for the transfer switch to be set up easily. Manual transfer switches are less expensive, but you need to turn it on every time the power goes out.

If you purchase an automatic transfer switch, it will turn on the generator automatically as soon as the power goes off. It will also turn off the generator and connect to the grid power once it resumes. So it will be worth the price although it’s slightly expensive. Although you can connect a generator without a transfer switch, it is very dangerous and should be avoided as much as possible.

Watts Rating

The wattage is another important feature that you need to know when finding out what appliances it can power. The running watts and the starting (peak or surge) watts of the generator will be indicated. The starting wattage is important when plugging in motor-driven appliances as they consume more power initially.

Multiple Start Mechanisms

Most generators have multiple start mechanisms which include even a combination of the following methods which gives you more flexibility.

  • Electric Start: You can start the generator easily with the push of a button.
  • Recoil Start: You need physical effort as you have to start it by pulling.
  • Remote Start: This allows you to start the generator via remote control. They also have status lights that alert you if something goes wrong with your generator.

Dual Fuel Capacity

Certain generators can be powered by gas or propane, providing more versatility in case only one type of fuel is available. However, gasoline is comparatively more volatile and cannot be used easily with other fuels.

Reinforced Fuel Tank

Most fuels evaporate from the fuel tank, adding more pollutants to the air. Hence, CARB-compliant generators have a reinforced construction in the fuel tanks. They are made with specially treated material to prevent evaporation and often come with an in-built fuel gauge.

Hour Meter

This is to measure the runtime of your generator to help schedule maintenance and keep track of the operational hours. You can find the durability and maintain emissions compliance.

Low Oil Shutdown

The low oil sensors detect when the engine is too low on oil and shut down the system automatically. This prevents damage to the engine and shuts it off before seizure. Some models also come with an alarm that notifies the user. (AR40)

Overhead Valve Engine (OHV)

It consists of a compact design and can produce more power than other engine types. In this engine, the intake and exhaust valves are in the head of the engine cylinder, while in other types, it’s usually mounted on the engine block.

GFCI Receptacles

CARB-compliant generators come with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters to prevent any electric shocks as it shuts down the system during a ground fault. When a ground fault occurs, the power increases rapidly as it is not resisted by the wiring. A GFCI detects this disruption in the circuit and cuts off the power immediately as a safety measure. (AR23)

Noise Suppression

Generators have a bad reputation for being noisy and causing a disturbance in the neighborhood. If you work too close to a generator for some time, it can even cause hearing impairment. So, CARB focuses more on the reduction of noise levels of generators so as not to harm the users. Special muffling technologies are used to bring down the noise levels and even limit shaking inside the generator casing. (26)


The generators offer a limited warranty to protect your generator in case it needs repairs during the offered warranty period.

Why Is CARB Compliance Important?

Harmful emissions such as toxins and particulates release into the environment when an engine burns fossil fuels such as gas, diesel, or propane. Over time, these emissions depreciate the air quality, resulting in degrading the quality of life. Therefore, since the 1990s, these regulations were expanded from engines at factories and vehicles to smaller engines like generators. As a result, people can enjoy the benefits of CARB-compliant generators under the following categories.

  • High-quality Products: CARB-compliant generators are made with the best material and components. Therefore, they are highly durable, have excellent fuel efficiency, and produce the cleanest energy. Therefore, they are the most reliable generators that you will find in the market.
  • Less Air Pollution: You don’t need to risk your health whenever you have to use an alternative power source during a power outage as long as your generator is CARB compliant.
  • Avoid Risk of Penalty: Buying or selling a non-compliant generator could trigger the risk of getting a fine of an amount decided by the state or district laws. If you have a CARB-compliant generator that means it is even stricter than EPA compliance required in other states. So you will have no trouble using it anywhere.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Residents of California Use a Non-CARB-compliant Generator?

The answer to this question might be strange and confusing. You can use a non-CARB compliant generator in California, but you cannot buy or sell one. If you already own a non-CARB compliant generator, it is not against the CARB rules for you to use it. However, you cannot buy or sell a non-CARB compliant generator of any size or model in California. It’s always better to check the regulations and operating requirements of your air district before you use your generator.

Is a CARB-compliant Generator Better?

Yes, a CARB-compliant generator is always better as it provides you with various benefits. You can use your generator safely without the emission of harmful gases such as carbon monoxide and sulfuric oxides. They also minimize air pollution and are hence environmentally friendly. It will reduce your breathing difficulties and related diseases caused by inhaling toxic air pollutants.

What Other States Are CARB-compliant?

Several states have also adopted the CARB standards. These include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico (2011 model year and newer), New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington (2009 model year and newer), and the District of Columbia.

What if My Generator Is Non-CARB-compliant?

It will not be a problem if you already own a non-CARB compliant generator since it is not outlawed to use one. But you cannot sell it or purchase another non-compliant generator. So if you are going to purchase a new generator, it should definitely be CARB compliant as per the law of the state. In addition to the legal restrictions, purchasing a CARB-compliant generator offers you many benefits, including higher quality of the product, reduced risk of breathing diseases, lesser noise generation, and minimal emission of toxic gases that risk lives, such as carbon monoxide.


Both CARB and EPA regulations are developed to increase the efficiency of engines to minimize harmful emissions. As responsible citizens, it’s your obligation to adhere to these regulations and help safeguard the environment. It will not only help avoid legal concerns but also reduce diseases caused by inhaling harmful gases.