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Inkjet printer - buy original cartridge or do a refill?

Updated on December 17, 2010
C.V.Rajan profile image

C.V.Rajan is a retired Engineer and a spiritual seeker. He writes on a variety of subjects that interest him.

I bought my first Color Inkjet printer from Epson some 10 years ago. Its cost was equivalent to about $165 at that time in India. My heart skipped a beat or two when I noticed that in the Printer Software that displayed the ink level, the color ink level came to almost half after taking a couple of family photos in print! The drain of black cartridge too was equally fantastic! I gave strict orders to my children against taking any unnecessary color prints saying "Let us preserve the ink for some really needy situation in future".

But slowly and steadily, without taking any color prints, the ink level kept on reducing only to find one morning that the color cartridge become bone dry! Reason? The printer, by default, underwent a cartridge-cleaning cycle whenever switched on (and before taking a print). Whether you take a print in black only or otherwise, both the cartridges undergo a cleaning regimen automatically and each cleaning eats away some amount of ink!

The black cartridge too went bankrupt within 2/3 months (despite my very limited usage) and the new Original replacement from Epson cost about 16 dollar-equivalent rupees. I did not even have the courage to ask the price of the color cartridge! Work out the consumable cost to printer cost ratio: 1:10 ! I was carried away by strict warnings of Epson about the dangers of using cheaper alternatives initially. But beyond 2/3 replacements, I understood that the printer was a black-hole. I switched over to Korean equivalent cartridges costing $6 and over a period of time, the price dropped to $4.

The surprising fact was that some brands of the equivalents at times gave a much better print quality and also more number of prints!

After I pulled along with Epson for 3 years, it (fortunately!) developed some serious snags. I bought a new HP Deskjet printer. The printer cost was about 100 dollars! (See the drop in prices of printers : from 160$ to 100$ over a period of 3 years).

This was definitely a better bargain than Epson printer from the point of view of ink consumption. The useless drainage of ink by uncontrollable idle cleaning was not there.

But the lacuna here was that the ink storage capacity of the Cartridge was much less. The cartridge hardly gave 200 pages of Black prints and a few tens of pages of color prints.

HP was much more vociferous in insisting on Original cartridges. I received regular news letter from HP on this matter. First two times I bought original black cartridges from HP that cost about 20$. Now see the cartridge cost to printer cost ratio: It is 1: 5 !

After burning my purse with original HP cartridges, I took the bold decision of ink refills that cost 4$ per refill. Result? Great savings; but poor print quality. I did not face any "damage" to printer as HP warned in their newsletters.

One thing is obvious. The printer manufacturers are foregoing their profits on printers and make money by selling printer cartridges, definitely much more money than what they could earn by selling costly printers. Further, by shrinking the ink-tank capacity day by day, they are robbing the customers more and more.

This is nothing but a perverted commercial assault on gullible customers. By this approach, the printer manufacturers shamelessly contribute to use-and-throw culture and by virtue of this lopsided, self serving marketing strategy, they contribute dangerously to the piling up of plastic waste.

If they are going ahead shamelessly with least concern about decent business ethics, why should we heed to their advice to use their original cartridges?

In India, there are umpteen service providers who do ink refilling services. Hence I see no reason why we must take the trouble of buying a refill kit and do it ourselves; perhaps, in USA or in Europe, the situation may be different. If you do not have somebody to do the work for you and if the refilling kit is cheap, go ahead and buy it.

My advice, based on my strategy (for black color only) is as below:

(1) Buy a original (spare) Cartridge for the first time (when the printer software indicates low Ink level) and keep it with you till the original cartridge inside the printer fully drains out.

(2) Refill it at the local service provider and continue to use it, as long as there is no huge quality demand in print-outs. When you come across a need for a good quality printing, use the spare original cartridge and then switch back.

(3) If your printing usage is limited, keep using the spare cartridge once a while so that it does not get too dry.

(4) When refill also drains out, do refilling again for a couple of more times till the print quality becomes too bad. Now start using the spare cartridge full time and buy a new original cartridge (or a cheaper equivalent from Korea/ Taiwan) and keep that as the next spare.

As for as color cartridge is concerned, well, I have stopped taking any color prints as a matter of prudent economy!


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    • OTEE profile image

      OTEE 5 years ago from India

      Yaay! Three cheers to you Mr Rajan for this most useful hub.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Ink cartridges are very expensive and you advise is so welcome and money saving. Thank you.

    • profile image

      TopUniverse 7 years ago

      Very good advice for saving money when buying or using inkjet print cartridge. Most time it is found that the cost of both the black and color cartridge are almost equal to the cost of inkjet printer. So utmost care should be given to inkjet cartridge.