Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why do my printers die so quickly? - Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008

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Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2008

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Why do my printers die so quickly?

QI got my first computer about two years ago. The computer is still going strong. However, I am on my third printer! All of the printers have been made by different manufacturers. I mostly just print articles I read online and digital photos. I've heard you complain about the price of ink. Sure, it's expensive. But why aren't you complaining about the ridiculously short lifespan of printers? They're bad for the environment—and the checkbook.
—John in Miami, listening on WIOD 610 AM

ALet me answer your question with another question. How do you afford all that ink?

It's true that printers aren't the most durable machines. After all, anything with moving parts will wear out over time.

But your printers last less than a year. This is not common. An inkjet printer should last about four years. A laser printer would have a significantly longer lifespan.

However, some people continually face problems with printers. The problem isn't really with the printer. Rather, you may be overloading the printer with work.

It's all a big mystery!

You're not to blame for this, though. Manufacturers usually don't give you enough information. So, it's difficult to make an informed buying decision.

You see, a printer has a maximum duty cycle. This is the expected number of pages a printer will print in its lifespan. There's also a monthly duty cycle. This is the maximum number of pages you can print in a month.

To confuse matters more, there's also a recommended monthly maximum. This will be less than the monthly duty cycle. Stick within this number to get the most from the printer.

As I said, manufacturers aren't usually forthcoming with this information. But you can often find the monthly duty cycle in printer specifications.

How about a lifetime number?

Unfortunately, the monthly duty cycle isn't very helpful on its own. You won't be able to deduce the lifespan. It only tells you that the printer will break if you exceed this number.

For example, say two printers have a 2,500 monthly duty cycle. But, one printer may have a 50,000 maximum duty cycle. The other may have a maximum duty cycle of 75,000 pages. Clearly, one printer will last much longer—even at the monthly maximum.

Manufacturers may not list all the information you need. But let me give you a little advice. First, estimate how much you print in an average month. Buy a printer with a monthly duty cycle three times this number.

You should also remember the golden rule of shopping: You get what you pay for. A low-end printer simply isn't going to last. So, spring for a more expensive model. It is a better investment in the long run.

Buy two printers

As I mentioned, a laser printer will outlive an inkjet. If you can afford it, buy two printers. Get a black-and-white laser printer for your documents. Buy another specifically for printing photos.

Your budget may not allow for this. That's certainly understandable. In that case, forego the photo printer. Instead, have prints made at a local photo shop or online. Most photo-sharing sites will sell you prints. My handy column will help you find the perfect photo-sharing site.

Believe it or not, this will save you money. Printing at home is quite costly. Professional print services are relatively inexpensive.

Of course, you can also scale back on your printing. There are a few ways to do this. First, you could print to a file instead of using paper. How do you do that? My money-saving tip covers all the details.

Don't print extraneous stuff

You could also condense what you print from the Internet. Get rid of the ads and extra pages. This will prolong the life of your printer. I have a great free tool that will help you condense your printing jobs. You'll love it!

There's an added bonus to scaling back your printing: You'll save a bundle on ink! Speaking of ink, I have another must-read tip to help you use less ink. (There I go again with my pet peeve!)

Before you buy a printer, head over to my buying guides. They will help you avoid making a costly buying mistake!
Find the ideal laser printer
Buy the right photo printer

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