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Cutting Costs: How To Save On Ink

Is Your Cartridge Really Empty?: In March, 2005, a lawsuit brought by a Georgia woman claimed that cartridges for certain HP printers are programmed to expire on a certain date, whether or not they're actually empty. An HP rep responded by saying it's because the quality of ink can degrade over time.

It's possible that printer companies are using tech to keep ink profits up. Whatever the truth of the matter, you may want to check your favorite news search engine before buying for reports about your prospective printer.

Buy Third-Party : You don't have to buy ink cartridges from your printer's manufacturer. Cartridges from independent sellers are often cheaper, and work just as well.

You do have to be careful: badly-made cartridges can result in poor-quality text and printer damage. However, a good recommendation to a reputable firm could save you a lot of money. Another option is refillable ink cartridges. Some people swear by them, but I would be cautious -- the possibility for leaks is, in my opinion, not worth the risk.

Go Mono: If you don't use color a lot, think about getting a black-only laser printer. The cost is initially a lot higher -- for example, a toner cartridge for the Brother HL-5140 laser costs $71, considerably more than the $25 for an Epson Stylus C84 inkjet. But when you factor in the number of pages you get per cartridge, the Epson costs about 5 cents per page, while the Brother ends of costing about 2 cents per page. (The cost of the laser printer drum only adds .007 cents to each page.)
Join The Draft : Read your printer manual and find out if your printer has a "draft" mode. Draft modes use a lot less ink than normal printing modes -- while not good enough for sending out, you can use it for documents that are for your eyes only, and save some of ink.

Stick To Black Ink: Only print in color when you need to. Color ink is way more expensive than black ink, and often you don't need to use it. For example, when you're printing a copy of some information on a Web page, do you really need all those pretty colors?

Buy In Bulk : If you tend to do a lot of printing, then you might want to look into buying your ink cartridges in quantity. You can get some good deals if you buy a lot at once.

Before You Buy, Check The Yield: As with any product, it is always a good idea to do some research before you actually buy. One of the things you should be checking is the ink cartridge yield.

What is that? That is the number of pages that a typical ink or toner cartridge may be expected to produce. Most manufacturers estimate their yields based on coverage of about 4 or 5 percent -- in other words, about 4 or 5 percent of the printed page will actually have ink on it. So an ink cartridge that has a yield of 450 based on 5 percent coverage should be expected to print out about 450 pages assuming that each page has about 5 percent of its surface covered by the ink.

This means, of course, that if you tend to print pages that have a great deal of text on them, or that use images, or that use a great deal of bold lettering -- your results will vary greatly.

For example, take a typical inkjet printer like the Epson Stylus C84, which costs under $100. An Epson black ink cartridge that yields (according to the manufacturer) about 450 pages runs about $25. The same printer uses four color ink cartridges, each of which cost about $15 for a yield of about 420 pages. (Keep in mind that you color ink coverage, especially if you're printing photographs, is probably going to be much higher than the 5 percent that the 420-page figure is based on.)

Unfortunately, there are few independent sources that can tell you the true yield for each printer out there. As a result, we have to rely on the manufacturers' figures. But even using those as a guide, you can figure out which printers will cost you more in the long run.

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