Guest post by Dave from ThePrinterJam.com
As homeschoolers we don’t have an IT department down the hall to assist with any issues that come up. We wear many hats and Google is our friend. While there are entire websites designed to help with computer problems, I thought I’d share some printing tips I’ve learned along the way. I know firsthand that printers can be an indispensible workhorse in the homeschool.
A good printer should be seen as an investment in our children’s education, not an expense to economize on. This is one time opting for the $50 printer on sale isn’t the wisest move. That doesn’t mean it has to break the bank either. Once you get above the $100 range, it opens up a lot of possibilities. In my experience the more the initial cost of an inkjet printer the lower the operating costs. An ink cartridge for an expensive inkjet printer that costs $50 may last 5x as long as the $15 one for the inexpensive printer. There are also some very decent color laser printers in the $200-$300 range.
It doesn’t have to be color, but a black & white laser printer should be part of every homeschool. If you’ve ever found yourself printing in econo-mode with your inkjet to reduce costs, a basic black & white laser printer will pay for itself after a few years. For example, a $50 inkjet printer using $100 black ink cartridges a year would cost $350 after 3 years. A black & white laser printer with a cost of $150 using $50 of toner a year would cost $300 after 3 years. After 5 years, the laser printer would total $400 while the inkjet would be $550. Some may find it hard to imagine having an inkjet printer more than 1 year before it’s worn out, but most laser printers should be expected to last at least 3 years if not more.
When deciding whether to buy an inkjet printer or laser printer, I’ve written more detailed posts at theprinterjam.com. As a rule of thumb, inkjets are good for printing things for resale or display purposes. Laser printers are good for distributing large volumes of information. I think homeschoolers tend to fall in the distributing large volumes of information category, even if it is to a smaller group of people. Although, if you’re spending less than $100 a year on ink it may seem hard to justify switching to a laser printer. More and more curriculum is available on a computer so there’s less demand for printing. However, if you like the feel and smell of books as a part of the learning experience then by all means get the most from your printer.
Whether it’s color or black & white, with a laser printer you shouldn’t hesitate to print. They really do cost less per page than inkjets once the volume is more than 1,000 pages a year. Text looks fuzzy with an inkjet printer unless you use expensive inkjet paper whereas with a laser printer text looks great on cheap paper. People find they print more with a laser printer than they would an inkjet. You’ll be glad you printed those few critical pages from that lesson even if you discard them later. If it helps kids learn it wasn’t wasted. Slightly enlarging text or printing in landscape will make an impact on their learning too.
Another tip is paper is cheaper in bulk. Buying a ream or two at a time might be easier, but buying by the case is more cost effective. Even if it takes a while to get through 10 reams of paper it will save some money in the long run. The next most cost effective is buying by the pallet. Though, I can’t imagine anyone wanting a semi pulling up to their house and unloading 40 cases of paper in their driveway. Even office-supply-loving homeschoolers might have trouble finding storage for that.
With 20+ years in the copier/printer industry and 10 years as a homeschool dad, I can definitely say that choosing the right printer for your homeschool can make a big difference in your budget and your education journey.
~ Dave at The Printer Jam
Dave has been the Copier Guy in his career for almost 25 years now. He specializes in copiers, multi-function printers, and networks. He is the father of three homeschooled girls and husband to Sara, owner of The Homeschool Post. He has launched a new site at The Printer Jam to help people get the most out of their printers with tips, how-tos, and helpful reviews. You can follow The Printer Jam on Twitter and Pinterest.