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Consumer Reports takes on printer-ink use

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: June 27, 2013

Consumer Reports has confirmed what I suspected: My printer is an ink hog.

The product-testing organization announced today that it has changed the way it tests printers to more closely mimic the way most people use them. Its new tests showed that  printers consume a whole lot of ink in their maintenance cycles -- ink that costs us dearly but never even makes it to the printed page.

My HP Photosmart printer, in particular, is a heavy user. That's disappointing, considering I chose it largely based on Consumer Reports' estimate of its ink usage.

Consumer Reports said it changed its testing strategy because consumers complained their ink cartridges were running dry a lot faster than they expected. It discovered that printing only intermittently and turning off the printer when it's not in use -- as many people do -- triggers printers to run maintenance cycles that gobble ink.

You can cut down on those cycles and reduce ink use by taking these steps, Consumer Reports advises:

• Leave the power on. Printers use little power when they're idle, and the electricity costs less than the ink.

• Print in draft mode when quality isn't critical.

• Don’t change cartridges unless you must. Some people switch to cheaper off-brand cartridges for less important documents, but each time you switch, you trigger an initialization cycle that consumes ink.

• Consider buying a second, laser printer just for printing in black and white. They don’t use maintenance ink.

The full printer report is in the August issue of Consumer Reports. 

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