The printer ink might be the most expensive liquid you buy. Even the cheapest ink, at about $13 an ounce, costs more than a fine Champagne, while the priciest, at about $75 an ounce, is more costly than, a Chanel No. 5 perfume.
But exclusive new tests in Consumer Reports' labs show that a lot of the printer ink probably never even makes it onto printed pages. Instead, it's used to clean print heads and for other maintenance chores, typically when the printer is preparing to print after sitting idle for some time.
The tests in Consumer Reports' lab, done in cooperation with International Consumer Research and Testing, an independent consumer testing and research organization, confirm that some printers use much more ink than others in those rituals—and the extra cost of using those models can add up to $100 or more a year.
For some time consumers are complaining about getting a lot less mileage out of their printers' inkjet cartridges than they expected—less than even the printer tests showed they should get. The ink usage tests we have conducted in recent years, which are similar to the standard industry tests that printer manufacturers rely on to measure ink usage, consist of printing pages continuously in big batches.
The fact that these consumers were able to print far fewer pages than tests suggested is that those consumers were printing intermittently, perhaps a handful of pages a few times per week, rather than continuously.
To determine whether intermittent use would cause such a shortfall, Consumer Reports devised a new test, in which they printed 30 pages, in batches of two or three pages, once or twice every work day or two for three weeks. And they shut off the printer between sessions, as many consumers do. The results, based on tests of dozens of current all-in-one inkjets representing the leading brands, confirmed: In intermittent use, plenty of models delivered half or less of their ink to the page, and a few managed no more than 20% to 30%. True, most models wound up using the majority of their ink to actually print, though only a few came within striking distance of using it all. (The tests included text and graphics, but not photos because most people print those relatively infrequently).
Where the ink goes
Manufacturers say it is par for printers to consume ink in ways that don't wind up on the page. For example, HP say, "Some ink . . . must be used to maintain the health of the print head; some ink is residual; and some ink evaporates." But when the manufacturers were contacted, they were mum on just how much ink consumers should expect to be consumed in such ways, though they did volunteer that the ink spent in cleaning may actually end up in a reservoir inside the printer that one manufacturer calls a "diaper" and other manufacturers call a "spittoon."
So far, only Brother printers were consistently frugal with ink when used intermittently. Other brands varied widely depending on the brand line. For example, with Hewlett Packard / HP, the Envy series of printers used relatively little ink for maintenance, while the Photosmart series used a lot more.
The tests also shown that you don’t need to sacrifice performance in order to save on ink. Several models that were fine performers were also among the stingiest with ink used for maintenance.
What consumers should do
Weigh performance - If you’re shopping for a new printer, ink cost is just one of many factors to consider when making your choice, although printer usage varies widely.
Consider ink costs - If you don't print a lot of pages, focus on the top performers and consider ink cost only as a tie-breaker among closely ranked models. If you print a lot, you should calculate your monthly ink cost.
That figure will depend not only on the ink the printer uses for maintenance but what it actually puts on the page—and, of course, what the manufacturer charges for ink in the first place. Ink costs per ounce vary dramatically: from the $75 per ounce figure down to about $13 per ounce.
And as with ink usage for maintenance, there's as much variation within brand, according to the cartridge used, as from one manufacturer to another. For example, HP 60XL cartridge, used in such models as the Envy 120, contains half ounce of black ink and costs $32, which works out to $64 per ounce. But HP 950XL cartridge, used in such models as the Officejet Pro 251dw, contains 2.5 ounces and costs $37, which works out to less than half as much per ounce.
You'll save by choosing a model that’s relatively frugal in the ink costs shown for continuous use and in how much ink it spends on maintenance. Fortunately, some models fill that bill and perform at least decently, including the Brother DCP-J140W, $80, along with two Epsons: the Expression Premium XP-800 SmAll-In-One, $180, and Expression Premium XP-600 SmAll-In-One, $100.
Adjust your habits to conserve ink - No matter which printer you own or buy, you can't directly control how often a printer maintenance cycle occurs. Such cycles occur automatically based on a frequency the printer manufacturer sets. But you can reduce the number of such cycles, and ink consumption, in several ways.
First, you can leave the power on. Leaving the printer on all the time avoids triggering a maintenance cycle each time you use the printer, it noticeably reduces ink consumption. Canon stated that "if the printer is switched off then it may do a longer clean."
Worried about the cost and environmental impact of the extra energy consumed? Inkjets left on consume very little power when not in use, so your ink savings should considerably outweigh the energy cost.
For less-critical work, print in draft mode, which will reduce the amount of ink used in printing (though not the ink used in maintenance). And don't print lots of large photographs, especially in high-quality mode, since they use the most ink.
Also, don't change cartridges unless you must. Whenever you exchange an ink cartridge that still has plenty of ink left for, say, a less-costly off-brand one for less critical work, you trigger an ink-consuming initialization cycle.
Consider buying a laser printer as a second printer for black-and-white, since laser printers don't use maintenance ink, and they print excellent text.
What manufacturers should do
Maintaining optimal printer performance may require that ink be consumed, and that not all printers can be as miserly as the most frugal found in the tests. But if manufacturers can make some printers that are frugal, they can better apply the design lessons from those models to make more, if not all, of their models use ink efficiently, no matter how often they're used.
Based on Consumer Reports' tests, in which maintenance cycles were initiated in some printers by simply turning the printer off and then on again, one way to minimize ink used in such printers could be to have them keep track of time even when shut off, and initiate such cycles according to need rather than each time they are powered on.
Until manufacturers take such steps, it's fair to consider at least some of the ink manufacturers charge so much for to be wasted. That's because some of their models use so much of it in maintenance—and other models that each manufacturer makes clearly demonstrate that such usage needn’t be so excessive.
We at Priceless Ink & Toner suggest using eco-friendly remanufactured / compatible inkjet cartridges. They are significantly cheaper and environment friendly. You will reduce your printing costs as well as helping preserve our planet.
Source: The high cost of wasted printer ink
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About Priceless Ink & Toner Company
- Priceless Ink & Toner Company
- Since 1999 we have been a major supplier of original brand (OEM), compatible replacement and remanufactured Premium Quality inkjet cartridges, laser toner cartridges and other printer supplies. Our customers range in size and include the United States Government, small and large businesses, schools and individuals. Each of our customers is equally important to us and is treated with the same friendly professionalism. Visit us at Price Less Inkjet Cartridge Co.