California Generator Ban Law: 9 Key Points To Understand

A generator can be a real lifesaver when you’re traveling in your RV or when you’re at home and a storm knocks out the power. However, people living in the state of California may soon find it difficult to buy a generator that runs on gasoline.

In its ongoing battle against air pollution, the great state of California has turned its ire on small gasoline-powered engines, with so-called “small off-road engines” (SOREs) under particular scrutiny. These include generators and other spark-ignition engines that have a power rating of 19 kilowatts or less, or 25 horsepower or less.

However, as with many new legal and environmental regulations, there are some important details to keep in mind. Especially if you live in California or plan to take an RV camping trip there and use a generator. To make sure you are fully compliant now and on future camping trips to the Golden State, we need to see the devil in the details.

Are generators now illegal in California?

Currently, generators are not banned in California. However, the sale of small gasoline generators will be banned in the future.

This will make it difficult for California residents to purchase a new portable gas generator. In addition, it may be difficult to find common replacement parts for a gasoline generator if you are vacationing in California with your RV and you experience a problem with your generator.

Remember, you can still use a portable gasoline generator, and larger gasoline generators that meet California emissions standards can be sold in the Golden State. Diesel and propane generators can also be sold and used in California with no consequences.

What is AB-1346?

AB-1346 was passed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in October 2021 with the intent of phasing out the sale and use of small off-road engines. The thinking behind this is that many SOREs have minimal or no air filtration or systems to capture air pollution. As a result, they release a large amount of nitrogen compounds and reactive organic gases that can complicate California’s efforts to improve overall air pollution levels throughout the state.

Key points of California’s generator ban. and what it means for motorhome owners

There are a few important details about the reasons for California’s generator ban and some of its detailed provisions. Even though it is called a “generator ban,” it actually affects a wide range of small gasoline engines. Also, keep in mind that California is one of those states that firmly believes that “ignorance is no excuse.”

So if you live in California or are planning a camping trip to the Golden State, there are a few things you should know about California’s generator ban AB-1346.

1. What engines are prohibited by California AB-1346?

California’s AB-1346 generator ban prohibits the same SOREs (Small Off-Road Engines) with a power output of 25 horsepower or less or under 19 kilowatts. This is a lot of small popular gasoline generators like the:

  • Honda EU2200iTAN1
  • Honda 121cc GXR120
  • Power equipment 25 hp
  • Kohler Command
  • Serine Life 155
  • Westinghouse WGen 9500
  • WEN 56200i
  • Powermate PM 2000

Other engines affected by AB-1346

Of course, California isn’t just going after generators. The definition of what is considered SORE also prohibits the sale of things like:

  • Chainsaws with engines of less than 45 cc.
  • Lawn edger
  • Gasoline hedge trimmers
  • Small petrol lawn mower
  • Petrol leaf blower
  • Log splitter
  • High pressure cleaner
  • Small petrol riding mower
  • Petrol string trimmer

2. When does AB-1346 take effect in California?

California’s generator ban was passed in October 2021, but it does not go into full effect for lawn care equipment such as leaf blowers and lawn mowers until January 2024. This also gives manufacturers time to develop alternative battery-powered equipment.

AB-1346 goes into effect for all gasoline and dual-fuel generators on January of, 2028. However, this only affects the sale of these generators in the state of California. It does not specifically prohibit their use.

The biggest impact in the near future will be on generator manufacturers, who will have to develop alternative options to their smaller gasoline generators or forgo the sale of SOREs in the state of California.

Both the research and development costs of developing alternatives and the loss of their market share in California will cause a massive financial loss to small off-road engine manufacturers. This will likely be passed on to consumers by increasing the cost of selling generators until the ban takes effect in 2024 and 2028.

3. What does the new rule mean for California mobile home owners?

If you live in California or are planning a trip there in the next few years, you can continue to use your small portable gas generator. However, you should expect that replacement parts for these generators are scarce and expensive. So it might be wise to bring things like spare spark plugs and carburetor parts, or buy them if you’re traveling through another state.

You may also want to add other small gasoline engines to your camping arsenal. Small gasoline chainsaws, leaf blowers and lawn mowers are also considered SOREs and cannot be purchased or repaired cheaply in California. This may matter if you want to camp with your RV off-road or in the great outdoors and collect your own firewood!

4. Can I use my gasoline generator in California?

California law AB-1346 contains a clause that allows grandfathered use of existing gasoline generators. If you already own one or are coming to California from another state to camp, you can continue to use your gasoline generator. At least that’s true for now and the foreseeable future.

However, as California moves toward a zero-emissions standard, chances are good that updated legislation could limit the use of gasoline generators in the future.

Still, there is nothing on the foreseeable legislative docket through 2028 that would completely ban the use of SORE generators in the state of California.

5. What about generators that are factory installed in a mobile home?

Generators that are factory installed in a motorhome generally must meet all state emissions standards in order for the motorhome to be legally sold by a California motorhome dealer.

Just as an RV dealer cannot sell you an RV with a defective braking system, they cannot sell you an RV with a SORE gasoline generator once the California generator ban goes into full effect.

Legally, RV dealers are responsible for ensuring that all factory-installed generators comply with the relevant California regulations. However, you can assume that diesel and propane generators will be installed in place of small gasoline generators in those models in which they are installed directly from the factory.

6. Can I buy a portable generator in another state?

If you live in the state of California and want to buy a SORE generator, you can buy it in another state with more lax generator laws. Just keep in mind that you must do this in person.

You can’t just order a generator online from a dealer in another state and have it shipped to your California address. That’s a good excuse to take your RV to another state.

7. Does California’s generator ban apply to diesel generators?

The good news is that AB-1346 does not apply to diesel generators, diesel pressure washers, diesel pumps, and diesel riding lawn mowers. This is because diesel engines are not known to produce the large amount of nitrogen and reactive organic compounds that CARB wants to curb in California air emissions.

8. Does California’s generator ban apply to propane generators?

A generator set up to run only on propane or connected to a natural gas line is exempt from AB-1346. While these generators are not 100% as efficient or productive as a gasoline generator of the same size, they are still a very viable alternative.

9. Does AB-1346 apply to small engines in construction and agriculture?

Current federal law prevents states from regulating new engines for construction equipment. This also applies to vehicles used in farm equipment, or those rated at 175 horsepower or less. However, these exemptions do not apply to small off-road engines used for camping purposes.

The State of California has also allocated a $30 million budget to specifically assist landscape contractors and similar businesses that use SORE power tools. Regulations on how these funds can be accessed and distributed are still in the works.

The overall goal is to help these businesses afford new equipment that meets zero-emissions standards. It is also hoped to encourage small businesses to keep up with regulatory changes without suffering significant financial losses.

From solar panels to portable power stations: How campers in California can adapt to the generator ban

California’s power generation ban doesn’t restrict propane and diesel generators. There are some other power technologies you should add to your RV repertoire.

  • Solar panels – Currently, solar panels are more effective when it comes to maintaining or replenishing an RV’s house battery. They are only really effective for powering pop-up campers and teardrop trailers that do not have air conditioning.
  • Wind Generators – Wind generators for residential use are constantly evolving in their effectiveness and power. If you are camping near the coast or in exposed mountainous areas and want to live energy conscious, a wind generator can be a practical way to keep your RV batteries above 50%. However, they are less effective when camping in forests and lowland areas where strong winds are sporadic at best.
  • Upgrade to lithium batteries – Lithium-ion batteries for RVs don’t generate electricity, but their performance doesn’t degrade as much when they drop below 50% as it does with 12-volt lead-acid batteries. This means that you can more effectively use the power in your batteries and the power generated by other alternative energy sources when you upgrade to lithium-ion batteries.

Preparing for California’s ban on gas generators.

At first glance, California’s power generation ban may seem like bad news for RV travelers in the Golden State, but it really only affects the sale of small off-road generators that run on gasoline and have an effective output of less than 25 horsepower.

If you already own a portable gasoline or dual-fuel generator or purchase one between now and when the generator portion of the ban takes effect on January 1, 2028, you can continue to use it in California without penalty. You can also purchase a portable gasoline generator from another state and use it in California.

Even if it is a purchase, you must make it in person. You can’t just order a gasoline generator from a company in Alaska or Iowa, where the need for generators is low, and have it delivered to a California address.

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