What Is A CARB Compliant Lawn Mower?

If you’ve noticed the specification “CARB compliant” on a model of mower, it’s referring to the state of California’s emissions standard, which is different from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s federal air quality standards. A CARB compliant lawn mower engine’s emissions are lower than those that don’t meet the standard’s acceptable level of output.

A new California standard was established in 2020, which will require new small off-road engines, like those used in lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and other lawn equipment, to be built with energy-efficient engines, with a two-phase implementation plan between 2024 and 2028. If you’re not in California, a CARB compliant mower simply adheres to a few more quality standards than the EPA’s federal standards.

What Does CARB Compliant Mean?

CARB refers to the California Air Resources Board, one of the regulatory boards within the state’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Products that come with the note “CARB compliant” meet the emissions standards set by the board to reduce pollution from small and large engines. Their standards are more rigorous than the US EPA’s in their effort to reduce air pollution. 

Emissions Standards

When engines and machines are designed, much of the focus is on performance, including efficiency. Engines are made to run as well as possible, which means wasting as little fuel as possible. Gas-powered engines are designed with filters, catalytic converters, and other design features to try to capture as much unusable material and exhaust as possible to reduce the impact on the air. 

As engines are designed to be more and more efficient, they release less harmful emissions. Many industries are trying to find ways to both reduce emissions and maintain the quality of their products so that we’re able to keep using them while also reducing negative impacts on the environment.

If your yard is smaller, a shift to an electric mower might not be difficult for you, but for someone with many acres who spends a lot of time outside with their equipment, like a professional landscaper or a farmer, it might be a bigger change. To support the shift, there are municipal funds available for small businesses to invest in the new technology.

The new CARB emissions standards will be implemented in two phases. The first takes effect in 2024, when all new small off-road engines will have to adhere to a zero-emissions standard, except generators and large pressure washers, whose emissions will have to be reduced between 40 and 90 percent, but not yet to zero. The second phase, to take effect in 2028, is when generators and large pressure washers will need to emit zero emissions.

The Difference Between The EPA And CARB Standards

Greenworks 40V 16" Cordless Electric Lawn Mower, 4.0Ah Battery and Charger Included

The federal Environmental Protection Agency sets emissions standards for the whole country, while the California EPA sets requirements beyond those standards within the state. State standards can be more stringent than federal requirements as long as the federal standards form the basis of the state’s own requirements.

Products sold in California must meet CARB standards, and you can get a fine for using equipment with engines that don’t meet those regulations. Outside of California, however, a CARB compliant machine becomes another option and category in the mower marketplace. 

What Are CARB Compliant Mowers?

A CARB compliant mower is one that has an engine designed for low-level emissions that meets certain requirements within the state of California. Before 2020, the regulations were aimed at gas-powered, emissions-producing engines that didn’t include electric models since that equipment didn’t emit pollution.

However, the executive order issued in 2020 states that lawn care equipment, including lawnmowers, will have to be zero-emission, supporting a move away from gas-powered lawn mowers and toward electric mowers, both corded and battery-powered. 

Making sure lawn equipment is designed with emissions control in mind has been a priority for California for many years. The Emissions Control Warranty for a Briggs and Stratton engine model (2014) gives better insight to exactly what about a mower makes it CARB compliant:

  • The warrantied emissions control parts – The emissions warranty extends to the parts of the engine that make up the emissions control system, which includes the fuel metering system (the fuel pump, tank, carburetor, choke, etc), the air induction system (including the filter), the ignition system, the catalytic converter, and other parts used in the system. 
  • Voided warranty if improper maintenance or modification – This is a normal clause for most machinery and technology, but adjustments not only void the warranty: the resulting modified design is no longer compliant with the one that is certified as CARB compliant.
  • The label – Lawncare equipment models that come with the CARB certified label means that they passed the standards test, and products legally can’t carry that statement if it’s not true. If you’re unsure whether a mower is CARB compliant or not, look closely at the product details, where it will be listed as a feature.