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Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 13 Issue 8
August 2019
Printer Advice: Simple Ways to Save Ink and Toner

The problem

Does your printer consume ink or toner faster than you think it should? Here's my advice on simple ways to get more from your cartridges.

How to consume less ink or toner when printing
  • Draft quality: When you print a document, try a lower "Quality" setting. For HP printers look under "Quality" for the "Draft" choice, Epson uses terms like "Fast" or "Economy." Depending on what you're printing, this may produce a lighter result, and for inkjet printers this will probably also print faster.
  • Very small text: However, Draft quality might be so light that it's difficult to read if your document contains very small sizes of text, so you may need to use Normal quality instead. You'll have to experiment to find what works best for you.
  • Grayscale: If what you're printing has colorful elements but you don't mind getting shades of grey instead, under "Color" or "Print Settings" look for a "Grayscale" or "Black Ink Only" option and you'll avoid using any color ink or toner.
Other things you should know about inkjet printers and cartridges

For ink cartridges that are already in your printer:
  • If one inkjet cartridge has become empty, most inkjet printers will refuse to print until you replace that cartridge, even if the others aren't low.
  • Don't waste money replacing cartridges early just because they are running "low" (not to be confused with empty). In general you can dismiss the on-screen warnings and keep printing until they're empty.
  • If the ink nozzles get clogged (causing "white streaks" to appear in your printouts), use your printer's "cleaning" function to try to solve this, but keep in mind that this will consume some ink, since your printer will force ink through the nozzles in an attempt to clear them. Unless they are very low on ink, this method is still cheaper than replacing clogged cartridges.
To save on ink that you haven't put into your printer yet:
  • Don't break the seal on an inkjet cartridge until you're ready to use it. In general, a sealed cartridge has a shelf life of about 2 years before it dries out or starts to harden. Once opened, that drops to about 6 months, whether you use it or not.
  • This also means that, while it's certainly prudent to buy spare cartridges in advance, don't buy more than you expect to use within the next year or two.
  • In general, if you print more than just occasionally, you may also save money in the long term by buying the largest-capacity cartridges your printer permits. HP cartridges often have "XL" (extra-large) versions. On the other hand, if you don't regularly use up your opened cartridges within 6 months, you'd save money by buying the lower-capacity (non-XL) ones.
Special option for some HP inkjet printers

Hewlett-Packard has a special subscription called "HP Instant Ink." If your HP printer supports it, you can probably save money buying ink cartridges by paying a monthly subscription fee based on the number of pages you expect to print each month, not on the cost of the cartridges.

  • If you print more than that number of pages in a given month then you'll pay a surcharge.
  • Also, any cartridge that you buy under this program will only work while your subscription remains active. If you cancel your subscription, all of those cartridges (whether in your printer or not) become unusable after that billing cycle ends.
Other things you should know about laser printers

For toner cartridges that are already in your printer:
  • When your laser printer tells you that your toner cartridge is running low (or that it's supposedly empty), try this before replacing it: Take the cartridge out of the printer, then very gently rock or shake it from side to side in order to redistribute the toner more evenly in the cartridge. Put it back in your printer, and you may be able keep printing. When that cartridge gets low again, repeat this technique until it no longer works.
To save on toner that you haven't put into your printer yet:
  • Unlike ink cartridges, toner cartridges don't dry out, since toner is a kind of plastic powder that gets melted onto the page to create your printed image. As a result, toner has a much longer shelf life, but opinions vary as to whether you should carefully respect the expiration date or assume that the shelf life is indefinite.
  • Store your toner cartridges lying horizontally flat, not upright.
Methods I don't recommend
  • While they're certainly cheaper than name-brand cartridges, I don't recommend buying "compatible" or "refilled" or "refurbished" ink or toner cartridges, nor refill kits. I've mostly had poor experiences with such products.
  • When buying new, name-brand cartridges, I generally shop around between Staples, Amazon, eBay and other vendors, but I try to be careful to avoid buying ink cartridges that are close to (or already past) their expiration dates. If a seller doesn't list the expiration date (and won't tell me when I ask), I move on to someone else.
The ultimate way to save ink or toner

Find ways to avoid printing altogether:
  • Use "print to PDF" techniques to save that printout in your computer.
  • Copy and paste the essential information into a text or word processing file.
Where to go from here
How to contact me:
email: martin@kadansky.com
phone: (617) 484-6657
web: http://www.kadansky.com

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to martin@kadansky.com and I'll add you to the list, or visit http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

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Copyright (C) 2019 Kadansky Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved.

I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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