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How to save the most on ink refills
Friday, 02 October 2009 00:00

Paying for costly inkjet cartridges often ticks off consumers because the expense can quickly exceed the price of the printer. But the machine is useless without them.

You can reduce the cost for ink, which is among the priciest liquids you buy at about $5,000 per gallon. Here's how:

Use Ecofont: The free font set uses less ink by essentially leaving small holes in printed letters. The font, based on sans serif Verdana, promises to save about 15 percent on ink used. Download it at ecofont.nl. It's available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

Try off-brand ink: Try store-brand inks for your printer because many are quite good, said Andy Lippman, a senior analyst with imaging-industry market research firm Lyra Research. If you print mostly text, third-party cartridges are the way to go. Off-brands might leave small streaks in photos, he said.

Outsource photo printing: You can usually get cheaper prints by taking digital files to a drugstore or photo finisher. A possible exception is the instant prints from a retail kiosk, Lippman said. It also can be less expensive to use an online service, such as Shutterfly.com or Snapfish.com.

Refill cartridges: Several retailers, such as Cartridge World, Walgreens and OfficeMax, will refill many models of cartridges for less than buying a new one. The hassle and mess of at-home kits may not be worthwhile.

Use software options: Use the "draft" mode when printing e-mails, directions and other personal-use documents. To save on paper, use "print preview" and "shrink to fit page."

Don't print: Could you save an electronic copy of the document or Web page by using "Save as?" Can you print to a PDF, which preserves formatting? Can you e-mail the document or article for sharing? Can you bring a laptop to the kitchen instead of printing a recipe?

Pay more for your printer: Some printer manufacturers, notably Kodak, charge relatively more for the printer and less for ink refills. That can be less expensive for frequent printers, Lippman said. Home offices that print more than 100 pages per month might find the best value in a business-class inkjet. Again, the printer often costs more than $200, but ink costs less. A laser printer also might be an economical alternative for high volumes, he said.

Be slow to replace: The printer software is likely to warn you of low ink levels long before cartridges are approaching empty, studies found. One test last year by PCWorld magazine found some inkjet printers warn users to replace black ink cartridges when the cartridge is nearly half full.

Compare: If you prefer to use your printer manufacturer's ink cartridges, shop for the best prices, typically online.

 

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