Your Printer is Probably Wasting Much of Its Ink

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If you've ever wondered why that expensive liquid runs out so fast, Consumer Reports has the answer.

Printer ink must be one of the most expensive liquids known to mankind.

As comic artist Matthew Inman noted — in a humorous rant about printers in general — a Bic pen and a printer cartridge are both ink contained in plastic. But one costs 15 cents, and the other $25 or more.

The cost of ink works out to about $9,600 per gallon, Consumer Reports says. With that money, as of June 2013, you could buy 2,652 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline or 2,791 gallons of whole milk. Suffice it to say, you want to get your money’s worth out of those stupid cartridges.

And yet, many people don’t even come close. Consumers who don’t regularly use their printers, in fact, get almost none of what they pay for. Consumer Reports recently changed how it tests printers to account for the fact that many of us print only a few pages per week, and leave the printer off most of the time. What it found is an amazing amount of waste.

“The results, based on tests of dozens of current all-in-one inkjets representing the leading brands, confirmed our suspicions: 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 percent,” Consumer Reports says.

It’s normal for printers to use up some ink on printer maintenance, and for some to evaporate, but certain printer models are far more wasteful with ink than others, Consumer Reports found. Differences can cost as much as $100 per year among those who don’t do a lot of printing.

“In our tests so far, only Brother printers were consistently frugal with ink when used intermittently,” Consumer Reports says, and results varied even within a brand. “For example, with HP, the Envy series of printers used relatively little ink for maintenance, while the Photosmart series used a lot more.”

The magazine’s advice? Leave your printer on so it runs maintenance less — that’s what all the whirring when you start it up is about. “Ink savings should considerably outweigh the energy cost,” it says. Print in draft mode, which uses less ink, when quality is less important. And consider a laser printer if you only need black-and-white text documents.

My advice: Unless you really need one, ditch printers altogether and make the occasional trip to FedEx Office. Do you have an ink guzzler, or a model that seems to do pretty well? Comment below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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