Emeraldology’s old printer just died. RIP. No worries: To print out mail labels and make sure shop orders are covered in a timely fashion while a new editor settles in, Emeraldology bought a new EcoTank printer of Epson from Best Buy. We had gotten fed up with the price and waste of HP ink jet cartridges for small offices. So there was Epson ambassador Shaq O’Neal enticing us with a contagious smile to “fill and chill”.

Should we fill and chill, and should you?

Epson 3760 (c) Emeraldology 2021

Ink Jet Printers: Cheap but not over the Life Cycle of the Printer

Many people know that ink jet printers are sold without huge margins. But then you are an office junkie of pricey cartridges (where the real money is), with crazy warnings on the toxic withdrawal symptoms that might occur if you try to find an alternate supplier for the cartridges. The printers can last a good while (as opposed to the cartridges), and at least that might save on waste. But it’s pricey once you buy it and use it. Heaven forbid your kids are draining the cartridges with 50 photos of funny pets and not just leaving you to print out your black and white mailing labels in peace.

For green and environmental reasons, and for “the bottom line,” could Epson wean us away from all those hateful cartridges?

Eco-Tank Pros

Epson highlights its green efforts for its ink jet printers:

  • High-capacity ink “tanks” mean more ink per container, and apparently less CO2 to produce the containers.
  • The best-selling Epson 3760 is definitely one of the lightest printers I’ve ever seen. It looks comically small next to Ambassador Shaq. That has got to save on plastic.
  • Not only is there much less plastic needed for such a small machine, but much of it is recycled.
  • Epson claims its ink jet printers generally achieve “low electricity consumption with Heat-Free Technology… during printing.” This may indeed require a little less energy than laser printers, which do need more heat to blast and roll the ink onto the paper. But that’s a tough call (see below).

Eco-Tank Cons

Epson’s petite ET-3760 does have some downsides:

  • Such a light footprint may mean the lines are just a touch less stable and crisp than a weightier laser printer. You can’t print perfectly with a feather-weight printer any more than you can take a perfect picture of a far-away bird with a light camera and no tripod.
  • The feeder may be too delicate for papers of varying thickness or slightly crumped papers. For scanning anything other than copy paper in good condition, you may decide you like the quality of scans with materials laid on the glass rather than fed through the feeder.
  • Although the ink bottles last longer than cartridges, they aren’t very cheap, and they’re made of soft plastic. I believe there’s no claims that the inks are more gentle than with other printers. I would have liked to see an “eco-ink” option and not just “eco-tanks”.
  • You’d think the pint-sized frame would mean quieter production, but in fact the wheels and fans on this thing are fairly noisy when it gets going. Anyone in a home office bugged by all the noise pollution of the machines?
  • Is it really consuming less energy per page than a laser printer? While the Epson is still chugging away with a long document, a smooth laser printer, yes with its heated tank, may have finished the job already and gone back to sleep. I would think the duration of time required for long print jobs, with the fan blowing away, wouldn’t help the environmental claims.
  • Does the whole industry (including HP and other Epson competitors) have to keep using Styrofoam — soon-to-be banned as a single-use food wrapper in Washington State? Yes, you could fill and chill

Pint-Sized Endorsement for Pint-Sized Offices

The big difficulty: Laser printers have come down in price so significantly that Epson’s eco-tanks may be a “last of breed” on ink jet technology. If you pay $50 more, you get a laser printer with ink rollers that also last much, much longer than most ink jet cartridges. For heavier-use offices, for faster printing, for crisper and deeper printing needs, consumers and especially bigger offices are likely to hope the environmental claims of laser products and manufacturers, like HP’s laser printers, are not just greenwashing. But Epson disagrees and is selling more solid and professional inkjet eco-tank printers even to big businesses.

Overall, I would say the smaller eco-tank printers have a pleasantly light footprint for a very small home office, like in a tight NY City apartment or studio, or a tight retail space without heavy printer demands. And Epson gets kudos, like lots of Japanese technology, for working to save on energy and space. The ink is not messy as some might fear. It seems very well manufactured. It should save on costs to refill this less frequently.