Teacher Printing Needs: HP InstantInk vs. Epson EcoTank

I finally made the plunge into investing in a new printer for my classroom. Why?  Well, my new school has a strict print limit, and I already know that will not work for me.  Also, I loooooove being able to print whatever I want exactly when I need it.  If we run out of recording sheets for a reading or math station...*BOOM*...instant recording sheets.

While you are reading this post, please keep in mind that I print a TON both in and out of the classroom. From take-home reading books from A-Z Readers to all of my reading and math station activities, I do it all.  I adore printing in color; especially if the items being printed will be meaningful for my students.  For instance, the ABC Sing, Sign, and Read charts, by Nellie Edge, that go back and forth every single day in the daily take home folders.  They would simply NOT be the same in black and white. Plus, I tell students over and over again, "Be sure you  practice your ABC sign language with your family tonight!"  How boring that would be with a plain, colorless page.  I'm sure you are catching what I am throwing your way so I will stop babbling on and on about it.  Check out the comparison below.

See what I mean???  Color is so much better.
For the classroom, I bought an Epson EcoTank ET-4750 for $399.00.  It came with four bottles of ink -- one to fill each color compartment the printer holds.  I have heard so many great things about the EcoTank printers through several Face Book teacher groups, and I wanted to see how the two printers compare. So here we go....

Click the image to view this product on Amazon.
I have had an HP Envy 5549 at home for about a year and half.  It is a part of the InstantInk program which means the printer tracks your ink levels and ink magically shows up in your mailbox when needed.  You choose how many pages you estimate to print for the month and pay a set price for this service.

I have had my ups and downs with the HP printer.  Much of the downs had to do with horrible internet connection and little to do with HP or the actual printer itself.  One of my tasks for summer break 2018 was to find a different internet provide.  Done!  We have lightening fast speed now (thank goodness).  Because of the spotty connection I had before I switched providers, the printer had a hard time staying connected. This is true of any wireless printer in building that has spotty internet connection. 

I paid $120.00 for the HP printer, and it came with 5 months of FREE ink.  I will be honest, the five months of free ink was the reason I purchased that particular model.  The ink voucher was totally worth it.  Once the free ink period was over, I started being charged $14.99 per month for 500 printed pages.  I was absolutely fine with paying for this service because I do print a ton.  I also know how much I have spent in the past on ink, and $15 per month was a drop in the bucket compared to what my color laser printer toner cartridges cost.  If I do not print that many pages, they roll over into the next month.  Most of the time, I use up my page limit and have to wait unit the account clears for the month before printing again.  There is no plan to cover more than 500 pages per month.  If you go over your limit, you a much heftier fee for the additional pages printed.  {FYI: I did notice that the HP Envy 5549 is now being sold for $59.00 on Amazon, but there is no free ink voucher included as far as I can tell.}

When I sat down to start my annual summer print-a-thon, I quickly ran out of ink in my HP Envy.  Rrrrr.  I had just placed a new color ink cartridge in it, and it was out again.  Because I have owned this unit for over a year, I know it can take well over a week for ink to be shipped to my house.  I didn't have the luxury of waiting every time the printer ran out of ink during my print-crazy summer, so I called them up to see what I could do about having extra ink sent to me before the printer runs out. They happily shipped me several more color and black cartridges.  Over the next week, I continued to blow through the 500 pages I pay for each month...and MORE ink cartridges.  I have estimated that I can print about 150 color pages, which also consumes some of my black ink, before the cartridge requires changing.  This is with my printer set on "ink saver" mode.  I have already changed both the tri color and the black cartridge during this month's 500 page count cycle (see image below).  Had I not planned ahead and asked HP to send extra ink, I would be sitting here waiting instead of printing and prepping for the school year.

Screen shot of my HP account page, as of today.
However, the Epson EcoTank kept chugging along.  When I finally stopped to check how many pages I have printed on the Epson within the same time frame, the number shocked me.  It says I have printed 2,540 pages total -- 2107 black and white and 433 color.  That's a TON of printing.  As of right now, this is what my ink levels look like for the Epson:

Epson EcoTank 4750 lets you see how much ink remains in the printer.
With this printer, you can literally see the ink levels, as well as view an estimate on the digital screen.  I have only used half the black ink and a quarter of the color ink!  That is amazing to me.  I love that I have not had to stop what I am doing with a project and wait for my page count to renew.  It prints faster than the HP, too.  This will make it a really great printer for my classroom. (Our school has strict print limits.)  This model takes the ink bottles marked "502" for black, cyan, magenta, and yellow.  A bottle of black costs $19.15 on Amazon (with Prime shipping).  The bottles of color ink are $40.25 for all three (with Prime shipping).  You can also purchase the color ink bottles separately if you run out of one color faster than the other.  They run about $13.50 per bottle.

This is not at all a slam against the InstantInk program. I love that they bent over backward to ensure I received  extra color cartridges for my summer printfest!  If you are printing very few copies per month at home or at school, the HP Instant Ink will probably do a solid job for you.  I simply can't justify continuing to spend a monthly fee for service that limits me and is not as responsive as I need it to be.

Has this been more cost effective for me?  Aside from the investment of the machine itself, the ink for the Epson has lasted way longer than ink for the HP.  Even if I have to buy a bottle of blank ink each month for all of my classroom printing needs, it's less than $20.00 without a print limit.  Plus, the machine itself prints a little faster than my HP.  I believe that the Epson EcoTank 4750 will save me money in the long run.  It will also save my sanity.  Keeping track of how much I print is not my thing.  I will be retiring my HP Envy after this billing cycle is complete.

What are your printing needs?  Do you print a ton?  A little?  Not at all?  Never in color?  Always in black and white?  Most kindergarten teachers I know print a lot.  I would love to hear how you are managing the rising cost of ink for classroom use.

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