Hacking HP Laserjet Printer Consumable Life

If you are like me, then I am sure you know how expensive buying toner is for printers. It seems that the price of toner keeps going up, yet, cartridges are sadly lasting shorter amounts of time.

I have compiled a few ways that you can save money by extending the life of your HP, Samsung, Brother, Lexmark, Dell or any other branded toner cartridge. Some are more fearless than others, but hopefully, you can use these tips to save a little cash.

1 – “Econo-mode”

Use this feature on your printer to help shave toner costs. HP is famous for introducing this toner-saving feature in many of their printers in the 90’s. Sure the printout is a little lighter, but it lasts from 10-30% longer depending on your coverage. Other companies have followed suit and provided similar features. If you don’t see a similar option for your printer, consult with your operator’s manual and see if they called it something similar. It may just be within the printer’s menu system and not on a screen show below.

2 – “Drill and fill”

Ever wonder what the big different is between the extended version and the standard version of a toner cartridge is? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s just the amount of toner in the cartridge. That’s it. All other components are exactly the same. So what’s stopping you from reusing that old cartridge and just buying a bottle of toner? Go right ahead and save some money by purchasing a “drill and fill” kit.

Here are some examples. I have an HP LaserJet 2300 printer at home. When I run out of toner, here’s what I look for.

Instead of buying one of these:
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B000FQ7EK8]
I pickup one of these (found by searching on amazon for “laserjet refill”):
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B001O9UUOC]
You can perform similar searches and find what you need by looking at refill kits sold from various sellers across the United States.

Words of Caution

I know what you’re thinking. Why don’t I just buy one cartridge and then reuse it time and time and time again? Who needs to buy cartridges? Well, as good as purchasing refill kits sounds, they do have some limitations.

  • The drum (usually the shiny blue or green “tube” in the cartridge) can only rotate so many times before things on the paper start going south. You should be able to squeeze out 2 full refills before replacing this piece.
  • The PCR (small black tube attached to the top of the drum) can only maintain its charge for so long. You should be able to again, get 2 good refills out of your cartridge.
  • There is a separate area of the cartridge that is called the “toner overflow” area. It catches unused toner. If you have ever handled a used cartridge and have had toner spill all over you, it’s came from this overflow area. It varies in how much toner it will hold before needing to be emptied, but usually 2-3 refills will max this area of the cartridge out.
  • When handling toner, be very careful to not inhale any toner. If any spill, use cold water to wash it out of clothing. Toner is really fine plastic and can cause lot of health problems if accidentally inhaled. If I were you, I’d buy a few of those nifty coughing masks just to be safe.  Also, never use a household vacuum to clean toner. It will go right through the filter since the particles are smaller than dust.

3 – “Chip off the old block”

In most of the recent toner cartridges, you may have noticed this small chip on the cartridge somewhere. The printer uses the chip to verify that the cartridge is from its maker (HP, Brother, etc). It also uses it to tell how much printing you have left based on several mathematical algorithms. Is it right on target in terms of how much you use? Nope. Do you think that the manufacturer wants you to buy more toner? Absolutely! So what’s a customer to do?

You could do a few things to hack or extend the life of the cartridge depending on your printer. If the printer is reporting that the cartridge is out of toner based off of this chip you can remove or replace it. By removing the chip, the printer no longer knows that the cartridge is genuine (no biggie) and it lost all sense of how much printing it can do from this point on. So you can run the toner cartridge dry at this point with no chip.

Some printers require a chip for other reasons and so you’re forced to either replace the cartridge or not print. Well, these chips can be found easily on amazon (I did a search for “laserjet chip”).
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B002L69PJI]
By replacing the chip, the printer will think a new cartridge is installed. Most chips are secured using double-stick tape, so you’re safe in removing the chip and installing a new one using some tape (or glue).

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