Is your printer wasting your precious pricey printer ink?

by , Technology Researcher Technology 20 November 2012
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If it seems like your printer is guzzling ink when you rarely use it, maybe that’s because it is. Our latest tests show that downtime between prints can massively increase the print cost per page.

Printer leaking colour ink

The cost of printer ink has many of you riled, but the outright cost of the cartridges is just the start.

Over the last year we’ve been running a number of tests on printers to look more closely at ink use. We’ve tested to see how much ink is wasted by head-cleaning cycles when you only print occasionally, and if this problem gets worse when you leave the printer off or in standby.

One print for the price of six

When we compared occasional printing (one page seven times a week for eight weeks) to continuous printing (50 pages in one day) we were shocked by the difference in ink use.

The most wasteful printer on test, the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus eAIO, used 525% more ink printing colour pages over the longer period. It’ll cost you £2.50 to print 50 pages in quick succession, but this jumps to £17.48 if you only occasionally print and switch it off in between. If you keep the printer on standby between occasional printing, the cost drops to £5.92.

That’s not to say all printers behave like that. With the Canon Pixma MX885, continuous printing would cost £7 per 50 pages, £14.13 for occasional printing (switching the printer off), and a whopping £19.11 for occasional printing (leaving the printer on). You can see how both perform against the more modest Epson Stylus SX620FW in this picture:

Printer ink waste cost tested and compared

So, if you only use your printer now and then, you could be paying for ink that will never even make it on to the page.

Of course, the idea of saving up all your prints and running them all off in one go to get the lowest costs per page is lunacy. When you need to print, you need to print.

Ink costs are a minefield. There are a number of variables that may determine when your inkjet printer cleans its print head, and how much ink gets wasted along the way. At present, when you walk into a shop, there’s no way of knowing how much your prints are going to cost. We think that needs to change.

Printer manufacturers need to explain ink waste

What we need is some clarity from manufacturers around how ink is wasted by printers, and why some waste more than others.

We’re going to continue our printer ink tests use to find the biggest wasters and factor this into our printer reviews. In the meantime we’ll be speaking to manufacturers to get more clarity about the true costs of ink. So if your printer seems to get through ink really quickly, we want to hear your experiences so we can share them with manufacturers. Is your printer wasting ink?

Do you think your printer wastes too much ink?

Yes (79%, 823 Votes)

I don't know (18%, 183 Votes)

No (3%, 38 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,045

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I should perhaps have mentioned that I have a Mac computer – if that makes any difference.



Hewlett Packard 8500A sucks! Wastes too much of ink and takes over 15 min to do a cleaning cycle EVERY TIME I turn the printer on or whenever electricity switches off and on. Hewlett Packard must develop a software which saves ink and prevents the auto cleaning cycle every time it starts up. I and planning to sell my printer and will never buy hp again! Will also advise my friends on this also. Thanks for not keeping to your Ink saving stickers on the printer! Hewlett Packard printers suck!



When I first got my Epson PX800FW (printing on an infrequent basis), it used huge amounts of ink and spent ages cleaning its heads. The waste ink goes into absorbing pads and when they are full of your expensive wasted ink, you have to take the printer to an engineer to get them changed. If you speak to him (or her) nicely, he will show you how to turn off head cleaning from the toolbox on your computer, and the problems disappear. Since then, I’ve never knowingly cleaned my heads and the prints are great.
Please persevere with your efforts, Which, there must be a better and more transparent way for the manufacturers to handle this!

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