The cost-saving secret printer makers don't want you to know

By: John McGarvey

Date: 11 March 2013

Printer ink cartridgesNew research from printer manufacturer Epson suggests that the UK is the worst offender in Europe when it comes to bad printing habits.

These include printing documents but not reading them, leaving print-outs languishing on the printer until someone throws them away, and printing stuff unnecessarily.

The research estimates that UK professional service companies could collectively save more than £45m a year - that's equivalent to over £400 each.

Cutting printing costs

Epson suggests many businesses can see significant savings by introducing some fairly simple measures, including:

  • Making sure staff know how to print double-sided or - better still - setting your printers up so they print on both sides by default. (The double-sided option is often referred to as 'duplex' in printer settings.)
  • Using software to monitor how people use your printers. Many printers come with maintenance or 'counting software' that logs printer use. You can use this information to install the most appropriate printers in the best locations.
  • Considering introducing swipe card printing, where staff have to swipe their card against the printer before it starts printing. This simple action reminds people to pick up their print job.

You can also switch to your printer's 'draft' setting (this will use less ink or toner) and shop around for cheaper paper.

The cost of ink

However, one cost-saving idea conspicuously absent from Epson's list is to try switching to third-party ink or toner cartridges.

As you'd expect, most printer manufacturers strongly advise against using anything other than official cartridges.

However, Which found last year that many unofficial cartridges perform strongly:

"Our August 2012 test highlighted some third party inks that produced good looking prints for up to 72% less than the cost of prints using the printer manufacturer inks. "

What's more, recent reports suggest printer manufacturers have been reducing the amount of ink they put into their official cartridges while also increasing cartridge prices. Sneaky.

Inkjet or laser?

High running costs apply most to inkjet printers, which tend to be cheap to buy but expensive to run.

The best advice for businesses has always been to spend a bit more on a decent laser printer, unless they only print in tiny volumes.

Not only are laser printers usually cheaper in the long run, but they're also generally more reliable and faster.

Spend £150+ on a decent model like HP's LaserJet Pro 200 or Samsung's CLP-365W and you'll land a reliable, cost-effective printer that'll last you for years.

However, if you do like to break the mould, Epson's own WorkForce Pro line is about the only range of inkjet printers that can come close to matching lasers on running costs. Reviews have been strong, so perhaps we could yet see the inkjet make an impression on companies looking for better-value printing

Used ink cartridges. (Image: kennymatic on Flickr.)

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