Posted by: bhalley | 06/17/2011

Extend Your Printer Life and Toner

This week I have gone through how to choose the best printer for your needs.  Today is a culmination of those posts in how to extend the life of your printer and your toner.  First lets discuss extending the life of your printer and this also ties into the final question of the first part of this series.  What is your budget? and Should you spend a little extra?  Let me give you a personal example that answers this question.

At home for my basic black and white printing needs I have an HP 6P laserjet printer that was purchased in 1997.  If math isn’t your strong suit, I have had this printer for 14 years and it is still going strong.  In the time that I have had this printer I have gone through three toner cartridges.  An average page count per cartridge is 3000-4000 if doing primarily text and not a lot of graphics.  I have gone through 3 1/2 boxes of paper. (Look at toner settings below to understand how I was able to get over 17,000 pages from just over 3 toner cartridges.)  Am I looking at replacing this slow 8 ppm printer?  Not any time soon.  It meets the needs of my requirements at home.  Yes, it can be slow when trying to printer a 20+ page print job.  But considering over the 14 years I have only had to page about $700 for all the printing you can see the cost is nothing I worry about.  It is running me right now $50 a year and that will drop come August when I start year 15 and I am not having to buy another printer.

How does a printer last so long?  First let’s talk about what an kill a printer the quickest, particularly in lasers.  When you print high-volume jobs that generates a lot of heat and for a sustained period.  This is one of the killers for lasers because that heat will start getting to parts in the printer not designed to handle it.  If you have ever noticed that when you are printing a high-volume job and the printer is getting noisier as the job runs on you know what I am referring to.  This is why one of the first questions I had you answer is to determine your requirements.  The largest print jobs I have had to push through that HP 6P is 100 pages.  So as you spec out your printer, look at its monthly volume.  This is number needs to be qualified to what it is really telling you.  If the printer has an 9000 per month volume, divide that by 30 days (300 pages per day), and then a standard 8 hour work period (38 pages per hour).  Now do you see what I mean by understanding your requirements.  If you regularly will send a hundred pages this printer probably won’t make it past its first year of service.  Let say you will only print 200 pages a day, but that is all at one time.  This printer is going to have problems, you need a printer that has at least a 15-20,000 monthly volume, and then I would push for the higher end of that.  You can save a little now but incur a replacement cost in a shorter period of time than you are expecting, or spend the little extra now for the next higher model, and then spread the cost over several years.

I worked at an office where that had an HP Laserjet 8150.  The monthly volume is 150,000 pages and I can tell you the printer never saw that in one month.  But what the printer did have was a large billing run once a month, besides the normal printing about about 300-600 pages per day.  At a 150,000, that works out to 5,000 per day, and just over 600 per hour.  Now the billing run was about 1,000 pages that would be cranked through it at one shot.  The printer did handle the run pretty well but after a year and half it was starting to make noises during this run.  The printer lasted almost 6 years and for an IT life cycle that is just over expected life.  But I hope you can see why determining your requirements is so key to the purchase of a printer.

Now let’s talk about your toner.  Going back to my HP 6P printer, I can tell you that I have never used a third-party toner cartridge.  I use only HP branded toner in my printer.  Yes, I do pay a little more.  But considering my printer has lasted 14+ years do I need to say any more.  Could I have used a third-party cartridge and the printer still be working?  Probably, but I wouldn’t be looking at a machine that I expect to continue working for me for another 5-10 years at least.  So when it comes to toner I strongly suggest you carefully review third-party parts and refill kits before you start using them.  Some of this can gum up a unit and then you are looking at a replacement cost instead of the the few dollars you saved.

How about adjusting the print quality, too?  When I setup my printer I create two printers on my computer.  One is set to permanent draft and the other I leave with the standard settings.  What do I mean permanent draft.  When you go into your printer properties and click on the preferences button the window you get will have several tabs.  One of these will be Print/Quality, or something to that effect depending on model.  Under quality you will have different settings.  Some will have a DPI setting, some will have Draft, Fast Normal, Normal, Full, or something similar.  This controls the amount of toner that printer is going to use when it is printing.  By setting this to a lower setting your printer will use less toner and that means more pages printed from that one cartridge.  For inkjets this can help cut ink costs tremendously.  But this isn’t the only place you need to make a change.  Under the  Advance tab of your printer this is a Printing Defaults button.  When you click this you will see the same window that you got when you clicked preferences.  Make the same change here.  Now you are ready to print with a bit less toner/ink than before.

Now I mentioned I setup two printers.  The reason for this is my wife prints and then copies our church bulletin.  Yes, should could print all the copies at home, but think about the volume that would generate.  A copier is much better suited for the job than my printer.  The problem with using the draft setting with my printer is that while it looks fine on the page, it isn’t dark enough for the copier (old copier is the problem here) so the copies do not look good.  So, once she has finalized the bulletin, she then prints it with the standard settings and takes that to copy the bulletin.  This one of the reasons why I have gone through but 3 toner cartridges in over 17,000 pages.

And for your information, while I have had the same laser printer at home for the last 14 years I have gone through 3 inkjets in a shorter period of time.  My next purchase will be a color laserjet because the cost has come down.  For our printing needs it may see a bit excessive, but considering the cost I have spent on those three inkjets and ink, I have payed for a laser and at least one set of toner cartridges, if not two.  And that is even with having a business inkjet once.

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