Inkjet Cartridges - Replace or Refill?
Inkjet printers are cheap. Keeping them stocked with ink can cost a small fortune. The manufacturers say to use only new original equipment cartridges, in part because it's an important piece of their revenue stream. But on the shelf at Office Whopper, next to the $38 brand-name cartridges, sits a $30 no-name job and a refill kit for only $20. It seems like a no-brainer, but are these cheaper alternatives your best bet?
Knockoffs and Refill Kits
For some printers, it truly is a no-brainer. Older printers, especially, do well with inkjet refill kits, but some newer printers may not be good candidates for home refilling, as we shall see. In any case, it's important to note that the ink in refill kits may not be the same quality as the ink in the manufacturer's cartridges, and the print heads on some cartridges are not designed to be used repeatedly.
People who use no-name replacement cartridges and inkjet refill kits may notice lower quality printing when using the refill kits, but your mileage will vary. Some office stores (Staples is one example) guarantee the quality of their store-brand inkjet products. I've been very satisfied with both the knockoff cartridges and refill kits for my Lexmark P3150.
In any case, it doesn't hurt to try. If you find that print quality declines after a few refills, you can always go crawling back to the manufacturer and beg them to sell you a shiny new cartridge.
Don't Wear White
Refilling inkjet cartridges is not always an easy process. It can be very messy, in fact, and may not be worth the cost savings if you wind up ruining your nice white dress shirt.
I strongly recommend that you study the directions carefully before starting, and make sure to cover your work surface with newspapers to prevent staining. Avoid overfilling, because getting ink on the printer's circuitry can interfere with the operation of the electronics and void a printer's warranty.
Some cartridges require cracking open the sealed lid or drilling through the cartridge top in order to inject ink. This is not a difficult task, but you do have to be careful not to damage the print cartridge while refilling it.
I also recommend wearing latex or rubber gloves, because it's almost impossible to avoid getting a little ink on your fingers.
Refilling is not recommended, or even possible for some printer types. A good example is the Epson CX series of all-in-one printers, which use Durabrite inks. The Durabrite inks contain a cleaning agent that is critical to keeping the nozzles and feeder tubes in the printer clean. Often, even aftermarket inkjet cartridges will not work properly in these printers, so the best bet is to stay with the original equipment manufacturer's products.
For some printer types, refilling is not an option at all. Some manufacturers include a countdown circuit on the inkjet cartridge itself, which communicates with the printer and will not print after a certain number of pages. For these printers, refilling may not be cost-effective. Other printers use cartridges with embedded circuitry that make it impossible to use anything but the manufacturer's cartridges.
In summary, using no-name replacement cartridges or inkjet refill kits can offer substantial savings. However, in some cases, print quality may suffer. But if your printer doesn't demand specialized inks, or artificially limit the number of pages the cartridges can print, you may come out in the black.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 11 Jan 2006
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Inkjet Cartridges - Replace or Refill? (Posted: 11 Jan 2006)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved