What is Tier 4 Final?

EPA and CARB legislation mandates that as of 2018, all off road diesel generators in the 15-47kw category must adhere to clean diesel emissions. This has resulted in several technologies coming forward to help clean up the emission from diesel engines.  

So, what does this mean to you as a consumer?

If you already own a generator, you are unaffected. If you’re looking to purchase a new generator in 2018, you will be required to purchase a TIER 4 Final generator.  

Eventually, everyone will have at least one TIER 4 generator in their fleet, so here are the positives and negatives of TIER 4 Final generators. The EPA has mandated the reduction of emissions and this has greatly reduced the amount of exhaust pollutants into our environment. The price of clean air does not come cheap. It is estimated that the price of diesel engines has increased by at least 10%. Moreover, this affects the overall size of the generator because of the added equipment to certify the engine as Tier 4 compliant.  

Power Tech has adopted the DOC or diesel oxidized catalyst to achieve this emissions mandate from the EPA. Power Tech was the first manufacturer to release a 20kw blood mobile unit in Tier 4 Final that would fit into the dimensions of the obsolete Tier 4 interim units that can no longer be sold in the U.S.

Going Green with Diesel Generators



The EPA regulations aimed to drastically reduce two primary exhaust pollutants. Particulate matter, or PM, is mostly unburned hydrocarbons like soot that previously shot out the exhaust stack unimpeded, and nitrates of oxygen or NOx, which is a primary ingredient of smog.

Exhaust Gas Recirculation on Diesel Generators

Image provided by equipmentworld.com


With the advent of Tier 3 regulations, most manufacturers added an exhaust gas recirculation – or EGR – circuit to their engines. EGR takes a portion of the exhaust gas and recirculates it with fresh intake air. The exhaust air reduces the amount of oxygen in the combustion chamber. When this oxygen-reduced air ignites on the compression stroke, the resulting exhaust contains less NOx.

The EGR circuit is a simple fix. There is an EGR valve, controlled by the engine’s electronic control module, but otherwise it’s simple plumbing. Recirculating hot exhaust gas back into the engine increases temperatures. So most EGR engines run the recirculated exhaust gas through a cooler. Some manufacturers also increased their engines’ overall cooling system sizes as well.


To bring down PM to acceptable levels in high horsepower Tier 3 engines most manufacturers resorted to using a diesel particulate filter, or DPF. These large, honeycombed, ceramic filters are coated with precious metal catalysts that trap PM in the exhaust stream.

In normal operating conditions, the exhaust temps are hot enough to incinerate most of the trapped PM in a DOC. But idling, cold starts and light load factors can accelerate PM accumulation. When a DPF becomes full enough to affect backpressure, the engine’s ECM injects a stream of diesel fuel into the DPF, raising temperatures and burning off the accumulated PM. This is called regeneration.

On some systems regeneration happens automatically without the operator needing to do anything. On others, a warning light comes on to let the operator know that he needs to activate the regeneration system. Regeneration temporarily raises the exhaust temperatures, making it important not to engage in a regeneration cycle when you’re around combustible material.

Eventually ash, which won’t burn off, collects in the DPF, requiring it to be cleaned or exchanged. The EPA requires manufacturers to size DPFs on engines 175 horsepower and up to last at least 4,500 hours between cleanings. For engines below 175 horsepower, the required maintenance interval was set at 3,000 hours.

Most heavy equipment manufacturers today offer guaranteed intervals on DPF replacement or cleaning. To prevent excessive ash buildup and possibly voiding your warranty, use a low-ash oil. These are typically designated with an American Petroleum Institute’s CJ-4 label.

Be mindful that DPFs are so good at scrubbing soot from your exhaust that they can take away the visible smoke that used to tell you of impending engine problems. DPFs can also be compromised by over extended drain intervals, faulty fuel injectors or cooling system problems so it’s important to keep the entire engine well tuned and in top shape.


Another way manufacturers are reducing exhaust pollutants is the used of diesel oxidation catalysts. These are filters with a catalytic coating on the filter media. Much like the catalytic converter in a car, the catalyst on a DOC chemically changes carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, diesel particulates and other pollutants to carbon dioxide and water.

In some engines a DOC is used in conjunction with a DPF. In many lower horsepower engines a DOC is sufficient to meet Tier 4 Final regulations without the need for a DPF. These are often touted as “maintenance free” since most stand-alone DOCs do not need cleaning or replacement and are warranted for the life of an engine.

Diesel Oxidation Catalysts Diesel Generators

Image provided by Michigan State University


Tier 4 Final regulations called for a drastic cut in NOx levels. In most engines this was more than EGR alone could handle. The solution was to install a new exhaust after-treatment system called selective catalytic reduction, or SCR.

In an SCR system, the exhaust passes through a DPF or DPF/DOC combination first and is then doused with a mist of water and urea (a common chemical used in commercial fertilizers) in a catalytic chamber. The urea/water solution is commonly referred to as diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF. The exhaust and DEF in the presence of the catalyst turns the NOx into mostly water and nitrogen.

Since 2010, on-road trucks have used SCR to reduce NOx, so the technology is well proven. It does add another layer of complexity, but there are several advantages. For one, the use of SCR means the engine can meet emissions standards with a less aggressive use of EGR – so these engines run cooler.

The disadvantages of SCR are that you have to keep DEF in stock and refuel the DEF tanks on your equipment. If you run out of DEF, the engines are programmed to derate, eventually to the point where you can no longer operate. Running out of DEF is just as disruptive to your operations as running out of diesel.

DEF consumption ranges from 3 to 6 percent of your diesel fuel consumption. But since DEF is priced at or lower than diesel fuel and since it actually helps improve fuel economy, most view the pricing issue as a wash.

The information provided in the "A Deeper Dive Into Tier 4" portion of this blog was provided by equipmentworld.com.


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