This year, new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emission regulations went into effect, encompassing all small-engine equipment, from generators to pumps and more. What does this mean to you?
In short, the new EPA “Phase 3” emission regulations impact manufacturers, distributors, dealers, OEMs, repair shops, rental centers and, as a result, end users. Last year, all small spark-ignition engines greater than 225cc were impacted. This year, the regulation includes all engines smaller than 225cc. By 2013, all gasoline-powered equipment will need to be certified by the EPA.
All of these requirements are rolled into Title 40 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations under Sections 40 CFR 1054 and 40 CFR 1060. But, let’s face it, who has time to weed through and make sense of it all? To really understand what it all means, let’s break that down into something a little easier to digest.
What it’s about
To really understand how this affects you and your business, it’s necessary to first take a look at what the regulation impacts: evaporative emissions. When liquid gasoline turns into a vapor, which happens when it’s warmed, evaporative emissions result. Everyone has smelled gas while filling a car’s tank or opening a fuel container on a warm day; that smell is the vapor, which the new regulations address.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has regulated evaporative emissions from equipment powered by small gas engines for several years, although most agricultural and construction equipment has been exempt. These regulations went nationwide via the EPA in 2011 and expanded in 2012. According to the EPA, small engines will emit about one-third fewer hydrocarbons under the new standards.
The regulations aim to control running losses and permeation losses from fuel systems. Many people are surprised to learn just how much fuel vapor passes through the walls of untreated plastic fuel containers alone. Permeation is just one way in which fuel vapors are emitted, though. Evaporative emissions occur when an engine is running as well as through diurnal loss, when the engine isn’t running, due to daily temperature changes.
Each equipment builder must control evaporative emissions from fuel systems and get equipment certified with the EPA. This trickles down to the end user, who needs to be aware of how the changes accompanying the regulations affect the product they are using and servicing.
What it looks like
Some manufacturers have been ahead of the game in improving products to meet the standards. Those manufacturers employ a number of methods to control evaporative emissions, from special hoses to fuel caps on sealed fuel tanks to carbon canisters and vapor control valves. Here’s a breakdown of what that looks like inside any new equipment.
Hoses that come in direct contact with liquid gasoline must now be special low-permeation fuel hoses, which are manufactured specifically to limit the amount of fuel vapors that permeate through the hose wall. The hoses need to be kept free of kinks and obstructions to ensure good working order.
Under the changes, most fuel systems are now sealed, and vented fuel caps have been primarily replaced with sealed caps to prevent evaporative emissions. When a sealed cap is used, there will be different hose connections. In addition to the normal fuel hose connection at the bottom of the tank, there also will be a connection for the vapor hose at either the top or bottom of the tank.
There’s one exception to the sealed fuel cap on some small engines, though. In those cases, the fuel cap self-vents through a carbon canister. The canisters come in different shapes and sizes and may be anywhere on the equipment, which makes it difficult to identify. The best method for locating a carbon canister is to first look for the spot where the vapor hose connects to the engine intake system, and then work backward toward the fuel tank. If the vapor hose connects directly to the tank, there will be no carbon canister. If the vapor hose appears to first go to a box, that is most likely the canister.