If you have a printer or copier, you probably don’t need to be told how expensive they can be to run. The reason for the unreasonable price is the “razor blade” business model employed by most printer manufacturers. They sell the hardware at cost-price, then make recurring profits by selling replacement cartridges at inflated prices.
Some manufacturers go as far as to build microchips in to the cartridges so that the printer can refuse to accept cartridges with unofficial or no microchips. Thankfully, in a landmark ruling in a court case involving Lexmark it was ruled that there was no breach of copyright if third party ink manufacturers included unofficial chips to get around this.
The Inflated Price Of Printer Ink
The bad news: Printer ink is expensive
The good news: There’s an opportunity to save a lot of money by following the steps outlined below.
How To Cut Down On Your Printer Ink Expenses
1. Finish The Ink/Toner Cartridge Completely
Your printer estimates the amount of ink remaining in the cartridge, and this guess is often inaccurate. Some printers will say that the cartridge is empty when there may be as much as 25% left. Keep printing until you see the ink start to run out on the page, then refer to our second tip below.
2. Shake It Up
With laser printers, the toner (powder) in the cartridge tends to settle over time, an uneven distribution causes faded areas and streaking on the page. When this happens, remove the toner cartridge rock it gently from side to side four or five times to redistribute the toner powder. Don’t be too vigorous or you’ll make a mess.
3. Care For Your Ink & Toner
When inkjet printer cartridges get older, particulates can clog the nozzles. To prevent this, don’t overstock on ink cartridges so they extend past their “use by” date. You should also try to regularly clean the nozzles – your printer should have a setting that does this while printing a test sheet.
4. Print In Draft Mode
Look for Ink Saver or Toner Saver mode in your printer’s settings. If you don’t need presentation quality prints, use Draft (AKA Fast Draft/EconoFast) mode which also increases the printing speed.
5. Set Laser Printers To 300dpi
On laser printers, lower the output resolution to 300dpi (dots per inch). Default settings might be set to 600dpi or even 1200dpi, which will give you nice crisp images but is wholly unnecessary for printing text in most situations. This also speeds things up.
6. Be Picky With Your Print Jobs
It sounds obvious, but ask yourself if that document truly needs to be printed and filed. Do you really want a hardcopy of that giant report, or can you make do with reading it on-screen? It’s easier to search and find digital copies and they take up less office space. Back up important documents in the cloud: they will be available when you are off-site, and they will be saved if your office suffers a catastrophe.
7. Reduce Document Size
Only print the content you really need. Remove the legalese at the end of an email and the appendices of reports. Remove images, graphics and charts that are not needed.
8. Choose An Economical Font
EcoFont produces a font with small holes in each character which uses up to 25% less ink, you can download font packs from their website for a fee. If you want to work with fonts you already have installed, it’s worth noting that Century Gothic or Times New Roman use less ink than Verdana or Arial. You can also try to use a smaller font size. Use this simple tool to calculate which font gives you the biggest savings.
9. Print In Black & White
Black cartridges are cheaper than cyan, magenta and yellow ones. Use colour sparingly.
10. Printing Web Pages
Look for the print-friendly button on web pages before printing – it strips out unnecesary images and navigation links. If there is no print-friendly option, you can use the Print Friendly browser extension which strips out ads and navigation and you can choose to further delete images or text you don’t need and decrease the font size. Alternatively you could try Printwhatyoulike.com. Be sure to preview your document first – many pages will print differently from how they look on your screen.
11. Proof Your Documents First
If you find a mistake after you’ve printed it, you’ll have to print the document all over again.
12. Use Inkjet Printers Regularly
If you leave your inkjet printer unused for extended periods of time, the ink can dry out. You can extend the lifetime of your cartridges by printing a printer diagnostic page once a week.
13. Use The On/Off Switch on inkjets
Don’t turn your inkjet printer off at the mains without giving it a chance to park the ink cartridges properly. This will prevent them from drying out.
14. Leave The Printer On
Another tip for inkjet printers: It’s preferable to leave the printer on if you will be using it again soon. A small amount of ink is used up during the initialization process each time the printer is switched on.
15. Check The Printer’s Cost Per Page Before You Buy
This advice will come too late for some, but most manufacturers publish a cost per page value for each of their models. Most of the time, more expensive models will have a lower cost per page than cheaper models, so depending on your print output, it might be a false economy to opt for a cheaper printer.
16. Avoid Printers With Three-Color Ink Cartridges
The colours tend not to be used up at the same rate, but you’ll need to replace it when the first colour runs out – wasting whatever is left in the other chambers.
17. Use “True Black” when printing black and white
Check your printer settings to see if there are different options for black. Generally speaking, settings such as rich black or composite black will use coloured ink/toner as well as black. Choose the True Black setting for black and white documents.
18. Seek Out Cheaper Ink
There are many alternatives to buying branded inks, and there are many bargains to be found online rather than on the high street. Shop around but be careful to read the reviews of the product before you buy, since some are low quality and are best avoided. Buy refilled cartridges from third parties which are usually much cheaper and can work very well. You can also refill your own cartridges by buying a special kit online, although this can get messy (and probably won’t work if the cartridge contains a microchip).
Bonus Tip: Saving Paper
Choose a printer with a duplex feature, and use it to print all your documents on both sides of the page. While this tip doesn’t change ink costs, it can cut paper costs in half. Bear in mind that this will slow down the printer output (pages per minute) somewhat.
A Note On Printer Settings
Most of the printer settings mentioned above can be found in your printer’s driver settings. Before hitting print in the print dialog, select Printer Properties or Printer Settings and make your changes – this only affects the settings for the current document. When you’re happy with the settings you can make them permanent by changing the print properties in the Control Panel on Windows or general printer settings on Macs.
Researching Which Printer to Buy
Start with an estimate of how many pages per year you will be printing, both for black & white copies and colour. You can then find out the cost per page of the printer (try the manufacturer’s website), and the cost per page of paper, which you can use to determine the amount of money you will spend per year on consumables.
The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the printer is as follows…
TCO = Initial Printer Cost + (annual consumables cost) x (Lifetime of the Printer)
It’s often cheaper to go for an expensive printer model with a low cost per page, especially if you’re printing large volumes.