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Tests show many printers waste $100 worth of ink yearly during maintenance cycles

Wondering why your inkjet printer’s cartridges aren’t lasting as long?

Inkjet-cartridges-tip-medTests by Consumer Reports show that some printers use much more ink than others during their maintenance cycles. The extra cost of using those printers can add up to $100 or more a year.

Instead of ink going onto pages, it’s used to clean print heads and for other maintenance chores, usually when the printer is preparing to print after sitting idle for some time.

Consumer Reports created a new test: 30 pages were printed, in batches of two or three pages, once or twice every day or two, skipping weekends, for three weeks. And testers shut off the printer between sessions – the way many consumers do.

The testing organization found that in intermittent use, many of models delivered half or less of their ink to the page and a few managed no more than 20 to 30 percent.

However, several models that were good performers also used the least ink for maintenance. See the test results at

Consumer Reports test showed that Brother printers were the most consistently frugal with ink when used intermittently. With other brands, maintenance ink use varied widely depending on the brand line. For example, with HP, the Envy series of printers used relatively little ink for maintenance while HP’s Photosmart series used much more.

While consumers can’t directly control how often a printer maintenance cycle occurs, Consumer Reports says consumers can reduce the number of cycles, and ink consumption, in the following ways:

  • Leave the power on. This avoids triggering a maintenance cycle each time you use the printer. Inkjets left on consume little power when not in use, so your ink savings should outweigh the energy cost.
  • Print in draft mode for less critical work. This will reduce the amount of ink used in printing.
  • Don’t change cartridges unless you have to. Whenever you take out an ink cartridge that still has plenty of ink left in it, for example, if you use a less-costly brand for less critical work, you trigger an ink-consuming initialization cycle.
  • Consider buying a laser printer as a second printer for black-and-white, since they don’t use maintenance ink, and they print excellent text.

The intermittent printer ink test report is available in the August 2013 issue of Consumer Reports, available at libraries and bookstores, and online at

Copyright 2013, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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Graham Forbes

Thanks for the info. Just about to review my printer life, as it always seems to need more ink. I too share your interest in keeping boomers informed and engaged. We have always been a force to be reckoned with and I want us to stay fit and healthy for the long life we could have ahead of us.

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