California Generator Ban: What Does it Mean to RVers and Offgrid Dwellers

In an effort to combat climate change, clean energy bills and pollution initiatives are being rolled out across many American states. These laws are aimed at reducing emissions and creating a more environmentally-friendly existence.

Recently, a new bill was passed in California that seeks to ban the sale of new portable gas-powered engines. In later years, this ban will extend to include RV generators.

Fortunately, if you already have a generator in California, you will still be able to use it for now. The current stage of the initiative only prevents the sale of small off-road gas-powered engines. This includes devices like leaf blowers and lawnmowers.

Keep reading to learn whether you can use a Honda generator in California.

Can I still use my generator in California?

Yes. You can. Californians who already own gas-powered generators, RV generators, and lawn equipment are still legally allowed to own and operate these items even after the bill. 

No new models will be created or sold after 2024, though. The primary focus of this law is to support the production and sale of new equipment that meets zero-emission standards.

Additionally, sales of certain generators will no longer be permitted in 2028, according to a new law passed by state lawmakers this month. In addition, the state has outlawed the sale of gas-powered small single-engine off-road equipment (SORE) such as lawnmowers and leaf blowers to curb emissions.

Why can’t I buy a generator in California?

The ban has been put in place due to the heavy emissions that these items put out. For example, the bill mentions that running a leaf blower for 1 hour creates as much pollution as driving 1,100 miles in a car.

Once the initial zero-emission standards and policies have been rolled out, they extend to portable gasoline-powered generators. This includes generators for recreational vehicles, boats, and homes. These generators must meet zero-emission standards by 2028.

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To make this transition easier for the people who must buy new equipment, California has set aside $30 million to help landscaping businesses afford new equipment that aligns with the zero-emissions standards. This is being done so those small businesses can afford to keep up with the legal changes without losing too much money.

Can I buy a generator off-state and bring it back to California?

Yes, you can since the ban has not taken effect yet. However, once it is rolled out, you will not be able to do so unless the generator meets zero-emission standards. Portable generators such as RV generators must also have zero emissions by 2028. The new law affects portable gas-powered generators that run under 25 horsepower. These generators may be used to power a fridge or other mid-sized appliances.

Unlike gas-powered generators, which can be constantly re-fueled through an emergency, the alternative requires charged batteries to maintain power.

Are all generators included in the California generator ban?

California regulators voted to ban the sale of portable natural gas generators in California by 2028 to work with the state’s effort to reduce harmful pollutants and work towards a carbon-free economy. 

These new regulations by the California Air Resources Board are to keep the air we breathe clean and reduce noise and pollution in the environment. 

One alternative is using a battery-powered rechargeable portable power station that can function similarly to a gas generator. A portable power station can range in size from 500W of output to 1500W (or higher) of output based on need but offer a silent, no-fuel needed solution to power the basics when it comes to the outdoors and emergency backup. 

They contain multiple output ports such as 120V AC, USB, and 12V, working for various appliances and devices needing juice where life takes you. In addition, these rechargeable portable power stations can be charged from the sun via solar panels while either stored or in use, making them capable of going longer or further when needed without using a traditional wall outlet or fuel source. 

Depending on size, these rechargeable portable power stations can power refrigerators, small microwaves, CPAP machines, coffee makers, hairdryers, lighting systems, TVs, electronics, and much more based on situational use.

Evaluate what the generator ban rule in California means

California just banned the sale of gasoline-powered backup generators, lawnmowers, small gas-powered fire fighting pumps, and other small stationery engines from reducing CO2 emissions.

California will soon ban the sale of new gas-powered leaf blowers and lawnmowers, a move to curb emissions from a category of small engines on pace to produce more pollution each year than passenger vehicles.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law that orders state regulators to ban the sale of new gas-powered equipment using small off-road engines. This broad category includes generators, lawn equipment, and pressure washers.

The California Air Resources Board has already started working on a rule to do this, a lengthy process scheduled to conclude early next year. But the law Newsom signed on Saturday removes any doubt, ordering the agency to apply the new rule by January 1, 2024, or as soon as regulators determine it is “feasible,” whichever date is later.

Unless you have a very large lawn, a ban on gas-powered lawn equipment would just be a serious inconvenience for most people.

But the law bans a lot more than that.

AB-1346 Air pollution: small off-road engines. (2021-2022)

An act to add Section 43018.11 to the Health and Safety Code relating to air pollution.

AB 1346, Berman. Air pollution: small off-road engines. Existing law imposes various limitations on the emissions of air contaminants to control air pollution from vehicular and nonvehicular sources. In addition, existing law assigns the responsibility for controlling vehicular sources of air pollution to the State Air Resources Board. 

This bill would require the state board, by July 1, 2022, consistent with federal law, to adopt cost-effective and technologically feasible regulations to prohibit engine exhaust and evaporative emissions from new small off-road engines, as defined by the state board. 

The bill would require the state board to identify and, to the extent feasible, make available funding for commercial rebates. Or similar incentive funding as part of any updates to existing applicable funding program guidelines to local air pollution control districts. And air quality management districts to implement to support the transition to zero-emission small off-road equipment operations.

What does it mean for people in RVs or off-grid homes who use generators for power?

A recently ratified law in California will ban the sale of new, small off-road engines as soon as January 1, 2024. These are the types of powerplants in lawnmowers and leaf blowers. However, the current wording also affects the built-in generators in RVs. Many businesses are upset about this new regulation, and the California RV Dealers Association is pushing against the RV generator ban.

Built-in generators are a very common accessory for motorhomes, so potentially not being able to purchase a vehicle with them in California starting in 2024 is a big deal. As a result, the California RV Dealers Association is pushing for an exemption for built-in RV generators in this law. 

The association wants members of the motorhome industry to call into a California Air Resources Board meeting to explain why this regulation poses such a huge problem.

The California law says that “there are zero-emission equivalents to all [small off-road engines] regulated by the State Air Resources Board.” However, critics of the regulation note that while this technology exists, these solutions are often significantly more expensive than existing combustion-powered options. Also, current battery packs take far longer to recharge than re-fueling an engine would be.

In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order stopping the state’s sales of combustion-powered passenger vehicles in 2035. This also affects dirt bikes, UTVs, or other equipment you’d use off-road. Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles must have zero-emissions powertrains by 2045.

In September, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill No. 1346, which bans the sale of all “small off-road engines” (SORE), including gas-powered lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and other lawn care equipment. The bill was later signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, who previously issued an executive order to eliminate the sale of all internal combustion engines in the state by 2035.

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Under the state’s broad definition of a SORE, gas-powered generators commonly used by RVers fall under this ban. Several lobbying groups requested an exemption for those devices but to no avail.

Additionally, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed an amendment to the law on December 9 that extends the ban to generators built into RVs and not just standalone units.

How Does the Ban Affect RV Owners?

On the surface, the new law seems like bad news for RV owners who use a generator at the campsite. However, the ban only affects the sale of new generators and RVs with built-in generators. 

It does not prohibit using generators that are already owned and in use. In other words, you can continue to use the generator you currently own without fear of consequences.

However, the California generator ban affects food trucks as most rely on generators for energy generation. The ban is also bad news for the companies that make the generators and RV manufacturers that build them into their vehicles. 

Eventually, those companies will no longer be able to sell their products in the state of California. It could also spell trouble for California residents looking to replace an aging generator but won’t be able to purchase one.

What is the Reason for the Ban?

The ban aims to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), reactive organic gases (ROG), and particulate matter (PM) produced by these small engines. According to CARB, SOREs emit those harmful elements alarming, creating potential health issues for the public. This directly leads to the drafting of Assembly Bill No. 1346.

Research indicates that a single leaf blower running for one hour produces the same harmful smog levels as driving a car for 1100 miles. Members of CARB have also stated that by 2031, gas-powered equipment—such as lawnmowers, chainsaws, and electric generators—will produce twice as much smog as passenger cars.

However, the current generation of portable power stations has a few caveats. While they do work well for keeping devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets charged, very few models can power an RV for any length of time. On top of that, recharging the lithium batteries requires plugging the power station into an AC outlet, DC accessory port, or a solar panel, which aren’t always readily available while camping.

The good news is that numerous companies are working to improve portable power stations’ charging speed and capacity. As a result, by the time California’s generator ban goes into effect in 2024, new models offering improved performance should be available to the public. This will make replacing a SORE generator much less of a challenge and make the campsite more environmentally friendly.

What ways to go around the ban legally

The ban on the sale of standalone generators doesn’t begin until 2024. At that time, gas-powered models will be removed from store shelves across the state, along with all other SORE equipment.

With the addition of the CARB amendment, RV manufacturers have until 2028 to phase out any models with a built-in generator. After that, those vehicles will remain on sale in states that don’t have a similar ban, but they will no longer make their way to California RV dealerships.

This means you can still buy and store generators for use at a later date past the ban date, as existing generators are not affected by the ban. You can also buy a minimal emissions generator that meets the minimum required standards.

Alternative Renewable Energy Sources To Consider

Solar energy

Sunlight is one of our planet’s most abundant and freely available energy resources. The amount of solar energy that reaches the earth’s surface in one hour is more than the planet’s total energy requirements for a whole year. 

Although it sounds like a perfect renewable energy source, the amount of solar energy we can use varies according to the time of day and the season of the year, and geographical location. 

Wind energy

The wind is a plentiful source of clean energy. Wind farms are an increasingly familiar sight in the UK, with wind power making an ever-increasing contribution to the National Grid. To harness electricity from wind energy, turbines are used to drive generators that feed electricity into the National Grid. 

Although domestic or ‘off-grid’ generation systems are available, not every property is suitable for a domestic wind turbine. 

Hydro energy

Hydropower is one of the most commercially developed renewable energy resources. By building a dam or barrier, a large reservoir can create a controlled flow of water that will drive a turbine, generating electricity. 

This energy source can often be more reliable than solar or wind power (especially if it’s tidal rather than river) and allows electricity to be stored for use when demand reaches a peak. 

Like wind energy, in certain situations, hydro can be more viable as a commercial energy source (dependant on the type and compared to other sources of energy) but depending very much on the type of property, it can be used for domestic, ‘off-grid’ generation. 

Tidal energy

This is another form of hydro energy that uses twice-daily tidal currents to drive turbine generators. Although tidal flow, unlike some other hydro energy sources, isn’t constant, it is highly predictable and can compensate for the periods when the tide current is low. 

Geothermal energy

By harnessing the natural heat below the earth’s surface, geothermal energy can be used to heat homes directly or to generate electricity. However, although it harnesses power directly below our feet, geothermal energy is of negligible importance in the UK compared to countries such as Iceland, where geothermal heat is much more freely available.

Biomass Energy

This is the conversion of solid fuel made from plant materials into electricity. Although fundamentally, biomass involves burning organic materials to produce electricity, and nowadays, this is a much cleaner, more energy-efficient process. By converting agricultural, industrial, and domestic waste into solid, liquid, and gas fuel, biomass generates power at a much lower economic and environmental cost.

Biofuels

In contrast to biomass energy sources, biofuels use animal and plant life to create energy. In essence, they are fuels that can be obtained from some form of organic matter.

They are renewable in cases where plants are used, as these can be regrown yearly. However, they require dedicated machinery for extraction, which can contribute to increased emissions even if biofuels themselves don’t.

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Biofuels are increasingly being adopted, particularly in the United States. As a result, they accounted for approximately seven percent of transport fuel consumption as of 2012.

Hydrogen Gas

Unlike other forms of natural gas, hydrogen is a completely clean-burning fuel. Once produced, hydrogen gas cells emit only water vapor and warm air when in use.

The major issue with this form of alternative energy is that it is mostly derived from natural gas and fossil fuels. As such, it could be argued that the emissions created to extract it counteract the benefits of its use.

The process of electrolysis, which is essential for the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen, makes this less of an issue. However, electrolysis still ranks below the previously mentioned methods for obtaining hydrogen, though research continues to make it more efficient and cost-effective.

Oscar

In his spare time, Oscar loves tinkering with electronics. Solar panels, wiring, old TVs and sometimes DIY powerwalls. When he is not busy trying not to electrocute himself, you can find him in the garden tending to his vegetables and chickens.

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