I was just browsing through my feed on Facebook this morning, and I came across a question from a fellow homeschooling mom about printers.  She’s soliciting recommendations for inexpensive, good brand printers.  Having gone through the same predicament when we were just starting to homeschool, I jumped in with my 10 cents’ worth of input.  But well, I write like I speak, so you can just imagine that the comment was a bit kilometric, and I was not even done.  So here goes a post on my journey through printers.

Our very first printer was an Epson R210, immediately followed by an Epson c65.  We bought the R210 because at that time, I was still very much into desktop publishing.  I learned early on that it is always important to have the right tools for the task you want to take on.  I wanted to print directly on CDs, and the R210 offered the feature I needed.  Then we started homeschool, and I stopped my desktop publishing business because it was too labor intensive for me and I simply do not have the time.

Who am I kidding?  The real reason I stopped my desktop publishing business was because I did not, do not, and will not ever have the talent in graphic design.  Why I even started is beyond me!

On to homeschool.  We needed that really important homeschool tool, the printer.  As we considered brands and models, we also looked for one that would be best for board papers, because from what I knew about homeschooling at that time, we were bound to print a lot of portfolio dividers and cards, so we chose Epson c65.  It is designed to print on heavy paper, but works great on an 80-gsm sheet, too.

But why Epson?  Husband says, best to use a tool with parts that are readily available.  Epson has a production line in Laguna, so Epson it was.

When we were offered to have the printer converted to a continuous ink system, we did not hesitate to say yes.  At that time, a 15-ml. cartridge costs more than Php500 already, while a bottle of 100-ml ink costs Php150.  I need not be a math genius to see how much the savings would be.

But wait!

For me to enjoy the 100-ml. bottle of ink at Php150, I had to shell out Php3,500 for the conversion first.  Still, we thought that converting to a continuous ink system would be more economical, considering the volume of printing that we were anticipating.  We had two homeschoolers, and there would definitely be a third.  It pays to plan ahead.

After about 6 months, we started to have problems.  The tubes would get clogged, there would be lines on the images, and normal cleaning would not do the trick.  So we had to do deep cleaning most of the time, which wasted a lot of ink. Plus, when we print large images, the paper would feel wet, because a lot of ink goes to it.

Then our scanner died.  We had to get a new one.  No homeschooling family should go without a scanner, right?

So we went shopping for a scanner.  And we found a Canon printer with a scanner.  And it was so inexpensive.  The decision to retire the Epson printer was made, since it was no longer functioning well anyway.  And it has served us for 2 years.

And as before, we were lured to have the printer converted to a continuous ink system.  With Canon, its own print head was used.  Unlike when converting an Epson, where the print head would be removed and the conversion package would have its own print head.  Which is the reason why converting a Canon is cheaper than converting an Epson.  It only cost us Php2,000.

It could be overuse, or it could be the quality of the conversion, that caused the Canon to retire after a year.  The funny thing is, we didn’t even get to buy new ink for the Canon.  The ink that was loaded during the conversion was all we were able to consume, and then it died.  Well, actually, it was like diagnosed with something terminal, and trying to save it would ultimately cost us a lot more than getting a new one.

So off we went our merry way to shop for a new printer with a scanner.  And we stumbled upon Epson’s latest offering.  The L100 and L200.  Both have continuous ink system already built in.  The L100 is just a printer, while the L200 has a scanner and copier.  It was so new, the ink refills were not even out in the market, but we bought the unit anyway.  The unit came with 3 tanks filled with colored ink (Cyan, Yellow and Magenta) and 1 tank of Black, plus 2 extra bottles of Black, both 70 ml.  According to the staff at the store, the ink will come out with a retail price of Php250, but I have not refilled my colored tanks yet, so I have no idea how much it really costs.  I have just refilled the black tank, using the first of the two extra bottles.

The exciting part about refilling, you cannot use any other ink but Epson’s original ink.  When you have to refill a tank you have to input a code that’s found on the bottle itself.  Otherwise, your computer, or the printer itself, will not detect the ink that has been put in.  Also, you cannot be an OC about refilling, the way I was.  Like, I saw the ink level on my monitor, and thought, “Oh, it’s getting low.  I’m going to refill.”  And so I did.

I just went ahead and opened the tank and poured in the ink.  And I was like:  “Why was I not prompted for the code?”  And nothing happened.  The ink level did not rise.  And the level continued to go lower and lower.

And then one day, there was an alert.  You need to refill.  “Oh, yeah?  Now, you’re telling me?  From where I’m sitting, the tank looks full.

Good thing this Epson baby does not talk back.  So I just went ahead and opened the tank.  And of course, the system detected that the tank was open.  And it told me to pour in the ink, which I pretended to do.  Seriously!  Then it told me to enter the code.  “A-ha!  Let me see how smart you are.”  I entered the code from the bottle that was used when we bought the printer, and the system told me I was being naughty.  So this thing is smart.  It knows when you’re using a used up code.  So I entered the correct code, and just like that, the ink level magically rose.

We’re still enjoying this Epson L200.  And if there is one important lesson I learned in experimenting with printers, it’s always best to use original, and not mess with the warranty.  We’ve had this printer for about a year now, and I have yet to do any cleaning.

For mommies who are still deciding on what printer to use, here are some important notes that I have learned through my printing journey:

  • Buy a printer according to your intended need for it.  If you are planning to print on heavy paper or board paper, make sure that the printer can accommodate that.
  • Use good quality paper to take care of the print head.  The smoother the paper, the better for your print head.  I use 80 gsm for our homeschool worksheets.  And I do use both sides of the paper.
  • Print something everyday, even just a page, to prevent clogging.  This one is really important especially to those who use the converted printers.
  • Go for the original continuous ink system, like this one from Epson.  Not sure if other companies have followed suit about coming out with their own continuous ink system, but it really is worth it to buy and use the original.  You get to maintain the warranty that way.  And also, if you factor in the conversion cost, you’ll find it’s even more expensive to convert.

If I may just add here how to test for good quality paper.  To know if your bond paper is really good, try to tear one up.  Don’t crease it, just up and tear it in the middle.  If it tears up straight, it’s good.  If you get a zig-zag tear, not so good.

Epson L210

Photo from epson.com.ph

And oh, I just found out that the models have been upgraded to L110 and L210.  So my L200 is no longer in the market, it seems.  And while I’m at it, a little disclaimer here:  this is not a paid post for Epson.  Although I wish.  Ha ha!

Happy printer shopping, mommies!