FAQ: Air Compressor Regulations in California

California has some of the toughest regulations in the United States across many industries and air compressors are no exception. Further, California’s legislation often pioneers the laws adopted by the rest of the nation. From anti-idling laws to air receiver tank sizes, we’ll help you understand all of California’s current air compressor regulations in this FAQ.

Who sets air compressor regulations in California?

Regulations are typically set by the U.S. government or state governments. California’s clean air regulations are currently determined by the California Air Resources Board, which has 12 members appointed by the Governor and formalized through the Senate. Other regulations, including air compressor regulations, are currently decided by the California government’s Department of Industrial Relations.

Can I idle my diesel truck to run an air compressor in California?

The short answer is “yes.” California has some of the toughest anti-idling laws out there, restricting the idling of heavy-duty diesel vehicles over 14,000 lbs for more than five minutes. Light- and medium-duty diesel trucks under 14,000 lbs are currently excluded from the restrictions.

However, even heavy-duty vehicles can idle if they are operating a power take-off device. Direct-Transmission Mounte air compressors and hydraulic air compressors are both examples of power take-off devices. In addition, the UNDERHOOD™  70 Green Series has intelligent digital controls that turn your truck engine off when air isn’t needed and turn the engine back on when air is needed again, giving you yet another option in spirit with California’s clean air regulations.

Can I idle my gasoline truck to run an air compressor in California?

Yes, there are currently no idling restrictions for gasoline vehicles. However, proposed legislation suggests expanding the anti-idling regulations to all vehicles that are allowed on highways. This includes both gasoline and diesel trucks, vans, and cars. If you’re planning for the future, it’s safest to assume anti-idling laws will apply to your vehicle in the coming years.

Do I need a permit for my air compressor?

You don’t need a permit for an air compressor but you may need one for your air compressor’s air receiver tank. A permit is required if you have an air receiver tank that exceeds 1.5 cubic feet (11.2 gallons) or 150 psi.

Fortunately, air receiver tanks over 1.5 cubic feet that don’t exceed 25 cubic feet (187 gallons) or 150 psi will receive a one-time permit called an “indefinite permit” at their first inspection. Indefinite permits don’t need to be renewed. Most mobile air compressors will fall into this one-time-permit category.

Because the permits are for the receiver tanks, air compressors without an air receiver tank don’t require a permit. Therefore, many operators avoid air receiver tank regulations by choosing a rotary screw air compressor that can meet their CFM requirements without an air receiver tank.

Do I need inspections for my air compressor?

If your air compressor has an air receiver tank that requires a permit, you will need to have the receiver tank on your portable air compressor inspected every 3 years. Air receiver tanks that aren’t portable but require permits must be inspected once every 5 years.

However, air compressors with air receiver tanks that are 25 cubic feet (187 gallons) or less and have a maximum pressure of 150 psi, are given an “indefinite permit” when first installed. These permits are always in effect, which means your air receiver tank doesn’t need to be inspected.

Air compressors that don’t require a permit are never inspected.

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What air compressors help me avoid permits, inspections, and regulations?

The current California regulations for air compressors are focused on air receiver tanks, not the compressors themselves. Therefore, choosing a rotary screw air compressor without an air receiver tank is your simplest bet, as there is no need for permits or inspections. (By contrast, all reciprocating air compressors need an air tank.)

If you do need an air receiver tank, the next simplest option is an air compressor with an air tank that holds up to 1.5 cubic feet (11.2 gallons) of air and operates at 150 psi or less. These air receiver tanks do not require permits. VMAC has several air compressor and receiver tank options that meet these requirements, including air compressors that don’t require an air receiver tank at all, and air compressors with a recommended 6-gallon (150 psi) or 8-gallon (150 psi) low profile air receiver tank.

If you need even more air, you can minimize the need for permits and inspections by choosing an air compressor with an air receiver tank that has a maximum working pressure of 150 psi and holds less than 25 cubic feet (187 gallons) of air. These air receiver tanks will need an inspection before going into service but are given an indefinite permit at that inspection, which eliminates the need for future inspections or permits. VMAC air compressor systems with a 12-gallon (150 psi) low profile air receiver tank fall within this category.