Save money when printing: How to get the most out of your inks

Lengthen the life of your inkjet and laser printer consumables with a few easy tips

We've already shown how printers can steal your money and rob you blind, and there's no bigger culprit than consumables. Over time, inks and toners can easily multiply the original cost of your printer or multifunction. Here are some tips to lengthen the life of your printer consumables.

Buy the right printer

While this may seem an obvious point, choosing the right printer really makes all the difference. Inkjet printers and multifunctions can have continuing running costs of $0.12-0.30 per A4 page, while laser printers and multifunctions cost $0.02-$0.23 cents per page depending on model and toner yield. It almost seems cheaper to print at the local library.

The cheapest printers on the shelf are likely to be the most expensive to run, and vice versa. Be sure to consider features and size as well, but factoring in running cost will ensure you save money in the long run.

Don't trust page yields

A consumable's quoted page yield is almost always untrustworthy. These figures are determined by printer manufacturers using ISO standards that hardly reflect real world use, so they are often exaggerated. While an ink cartridge might be quoted to last 400 pages, it may not even reach the 40 page mark before it runs out.

One solution is to purchase high-yield cartridges where possible. Though the quoted page yields are still likely to be exaggerated, they offer a better value cost per page, and will definitely lengthen the time between visits to the store. Using high yield cartridges, you are more likely to get through a run of War and Peace rather than winding up with a copy of Le Petit Prince.

How to get the most out of your inks

Print a test page to see if you need to clean the cartridge or toner

Minimise maintenance tasks

Maintenance tasks like cartridge cleaning and print-head alignment are two of the biggest culprits in wasting ink. The reason for this is simple: the printer uses ink to clean itself. Though some printers use as little as possible, others throw caution to the wind, using as much as 25 per cent of the ink cartridge in a single process. Printers with capillary tubes tend to waste even more ink, as there is more space for ink to travel and more chances for it to clog a component.

Unfortunately, maintenance is sometimes unavoidable. It is often an automatic process initiated when inserting a cartridge or between prints. However, unless it is absolutely necessary, keep maintenance tasks to a minimum. Print test patterns first in order to diagnose whether there is a problem first. Even pulling the cartridge out and putting it back in could solve the issue.

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James Hutchinson

PC World
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