Safety Standard for Portable Generators SNPR

Posted by Kristen S. on Jun 13th 2023

Safety Standard for Portable Generators SNPR

On April 20, 2023, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) ruled to move ahead with their proposed supplementary notice of proposed rulemaking (SNPR) on carbon monoxide (CO) emissions for portable generators. The CPSC hopes these proposed changes will create safer products for the American public, but it may also mean drastic process adjustments for manufacturers who must adopt these new federal regulations if passed into law.

What Is the SNPR for Portable Generators?

The SNPR brought forward by the CPSC supports two main changes to portable generator functionality and assembly — the reduction of carbon monoxide emissions and automatic shutoffs. Portable generators create large quantities of carbon monoxide, a deadly odorless gas, making them dangerous to individuals in enclosed spaces, or even running close to their homes. 

To make these products safer for customers, the CPSC wants to enhance the standard safety features of portable generators. First, the commission wants manufacturers to develop portable generators that limit the emissions of carbon monoxide. When equipment can produce less of this dangerous gas, risks for consumers relying on their models also decrease. Second, the commission proposed a requirement for enhanced automatic shutoff features that will turn off generators when emissions reach a certain threshold, helping prevent deaths and injuries related to carbon monoxide exposure and poisoning.

Why Are These Changes Happening Now? 

The CPSC is a federal committee responsible for the safety of American consumers, allowing it to regulate all products on the market, including portable generators. The commission recognizes the historical and present danger of carbon monoxide poisoning for the general public. Around 400 people die each year from carbon monoxide emissions, and about 70 of those deaths account for carbon monoxide poison from portable generators. 

CO-related deaths have been more prevalent in the past couple of years because of natural disasters and phenomena that leave American citizens more reliant on generators. Especially in the South, shifting weather patterns leave people in emergencies without power, causing them to depend on their portable generators until primary power sources return. 

In the winter of 2021, an unprecedented snowstorm hit Texas, leaving residents unprepared and without power. While generators helped bring heat and water back to many homes, 19 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and 10 of these deaths involved generators.

In the summer of the same year, Hurricane Ida devastated Louisiana. Like Texas, residents invested in portable generators to supply power to their homes as emergency services and responders worked to restore power grids and help communities. Ultimately, six people died from CO poisoning.

Natural disasters and unforeseen weather forecasts lead more people to use secondary power sources. As many state and local governments have few regulations on carbon monoxide detectors, the CPSC is looking toward product reform to keep the American public safe.

What Does Current Safety Compliance Look Like?

The Portable Generator Manufacturers' Association (PGMA) outlines the current compliance standards for carbon emissions and safety in PGMA G300. This standard is widely adopted, and applies to all portable generators that produce 15 kW or less and those that operate on gas and diesel. The PGMA's portable generator safety requirements outline features and tests that all produced portable generators must have before entering the consumer market.

Required Carbon Monoxide Sensory Equipment

Under PGMA G300, all portable generators must include carbon monoxide sensors and signals. The sensors will continuously measure the carbon monoxide emissions and levels to determine if they are safe for individuals, while the signals will alert owners when levels reach dangerous thresholds.

The CO sensors on generators must be tamper-resistant, so owners can ensure the information presented to them is accurate and reliable, allowing them to react accordingly. Further, alerts and notifications should prompt individuals to shut down their generators when levels get too high.

All generators should have a monitoring system for sensory and signaling equipment. If this system senses any failure or problems with the detector or signal functionality, it will prevent the engine from turning on or signal for a shutdown if already running. G300 standards are widely adopted by PGMA members, and possible to be adopted into the CPSC's SNPR.

Required Carbon Monoxide Testing Procedures 

To ensure the functionality of carbon monoxide sensors and signals, manufacturers must conduct tests to ensure they alert owners at the right thresholds and in a timely manner. Manufacturers should let carbon monoxide levels reach 400 ppm in their testing environment. The generator must  signal within 10 minutes of passing this threshold. 

In another test, manufacturers must let carbon monoxide levels reach 800 ppm. At this point, the generator must notify owners  within the first 30 seconds of passing this threshold. Current proposals for the PGMA G300 advancement would reduce this to 600 ppm.

What Does the Future Look Like for Manufacturers? 

Many manufacturers have been pushing back against the CPSC's involvement and regulation, contesting that the lack of safety advancements is due to the  supply chain issues many manufacturers faced during COVID-19. Procurement teams struggled to find and timely receive carbon monoxide sensors, causing them to reject improvements instead and stick to PGMA-compliant methods. 

Portable Generator Emissions Testing

If the CPSC adopts stricter regulations, manufacturers can expect changes to their operations. More comprehensive emission testing of generators will help ensure that produced portable generators meet new emissions limits and match new sensory and signaling standards for carbon monoxide detection. Adding lower emissions thresholds and standards will lead to challenges for generator manufacturers, adding expense to comply, and likely raise the cost of an average portable generator to the consumer.

Stockpiling Restrictions

While the CPSC has yet to reach a final ruling, the draft ruling contains an anti-stockpiling provision. Specifically, manufacturers are not allowed to import non-compliant generators or increase manufacturing in the time period between the final ruling and the effective date.

The CPSC has decided to restrict the number of non-compliant portable generators that manufacturers can produce and import after a final ruling. Manufacturers will be unable to produce or import more than 120% of their base period in any one-month period after the final ruling to minimize the amount of non-compliant equipment available to the public.

The base period equals the average import or production rate for any 180 continuous days within the 12 months before the final ruling. This anti-stockpiling rule will also impact the period between the final ruling and the date the ruling becomes effective.

Procurement Patterns 

Manufacturers might respond to changes by adjusting their procurement methods and partners. With a heavier emphasis on quality sensors, signals and automated features, manufacturers may need to prioritize more efficient and streamlined supply chains with partners they can depend on. 

Improve Portable Generator Safety With GenTent 

At GenTent, we dedicate ourselves to educating consumers and manufacturers about proper generator safety. With our products, customers can effectively use their portable generators by keeping them further from enclosed spaces without fear of the equipment becoming damaged by harsh environments.