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Should You Turn Your Printer Off when You aren’t Using It?

Posted by David Bufford, HP Inkjet Printing Efficiency

You’re not planning to print for the rest of the day. Should you power your printer off or leave it on? What about overnight? Over the weekend? When you leave for vacation? What are the implications for leaving it on vs. turning it off?

First, let’s talk about what it means to power off the printer. Most printers have a low-power mode (standby mode) that they automatically initiate it you haven’t printed for awhile. In this state, the printer will print if you send it a print job. Printers normally have a power button, which is typically lit when on. Push the button, and the printer shuts down…mostly. Printers typically do not respond to print jobs in this state, but are using a very small amount of power. Finally, you can pull the cord or shut off the power strip. Now it’s really totally off, no power is consumed, and the printer will definitely not respond if you send it a print job.

There are primarily 3 areas of interest affected by this decision. They are:

· Power consumption
· Printhead health
· Ink usage

Power Consumption:

Your printer definitely uses more power on than off. How much more power? It depends on your printer, of course. For example, HP’s Deskjet D4160 in standby mode (also sometimes called Energy Star mode in printers like the D4160 that meet that standard) consumes about 3 watts of power. That’s less than half the electricity consumed by a typical nightlight. Costs for electricity vary widely, but the US average is close to $0.10 per Kwh. At that rate, it costs about $2.50 a year for your D4160 printer to operate in stand-by mode continuously. In power-off mode (the power light is off), it consumes less than 1 watt, which would cost about $0.85 a year. Pull the plug…well, I’ll let you do the math.

Printhead Health:

All inkjet printers have semiconductor printheads. Some have an integrated printhead (IPH), while others are separate from the cartridge (as in IIC or Individual Ink Cartridge architectures). Regardless of the architecture, the printhead needs to be kept healthy to allow you to print high quality documents.

HP inkjet printers have shut-down routines, where the printer “parks” the printhead and “caps” the cartridge. There are a couple of triggers that cause this. One is if the “Off” button is pushed on the printer. The other is when the printer has been idle for a while, and it puts itself into power save mode. The printer moves the printhead to what our engineers call a “service station” where the printhead is covered, with very limited flow of air to the printhead. The printer can sit for an extended time without drying out the ink in the printhead and without harming the printer.

How long? As with so many such questions, the answer depends upon many variables, and it’s hard to give a definite answer. But it would be reasonably safe to assume that a month or so is ok, and that if you don’t print for a year or so, you risk having difficulty getting clean, streak-free prints without significant maintenance/servicing or repair/replacement of the printhead.

If you remove power (pull the plug) to the printer while it is in the middle of printing or shortly after it has finished a print job, without using the power off button, you could leave the printer in a much less desirable state. In this case, the ink would have a higher likelihood of drying in the printhead, and clogging up nozzles. Ink can no longer flow through those nozzles, and you will get streaky output. To keep the nozzles working properly, inkjet printers routinely maintain the printhead nozzles. Many inkjet printers also have user-initiated cleaning cycles. In many situations, your printer can recover from clogging with one or more cleaning cycles. If it can’t, you will need a new printhead. For an IPH product, replace the cartridge and you get a brand new printhead. For an IIC printer, your choices are to send the printer for service or to replace the printer (though some office-type IIC printers have user- replaceable printheads).

Ink Usage:

Maintaining the printhead in your printer is kind of like changing the oil in your car. If you don’t do it regularly, not only will it not function optimally, but eventually it may not function at all. And the cost of the maintenance is negligible compared to the cost of the repair if you don’t do the maintenance - in the case of your printer, it uses a small amount of ink to flow through the printhead and keep it clear.

Unlike your car, you don’t have to bring your printer in to get it maintained. HP has designed the printer to do the job for you, with minimum impact on your ability to print the documents you want when you want them. Some inkjet printers will periodically run maintenance cycles that use small amounts of ink to flush the nozzles and keep them clear if the printer has not been used for some time. This is because our engineers have determined that extended periods of time without printing could harm the printhead. If you have a printer that does this, you can stop these cycles by removing power, but your printhead may become clogged and cease to print the beautiful documents you expect from it.

Some inkjet printers run a maintenance cycle when the printer is powered on, while others know when they were last used at all times and only run maintenance cycles if it’s been a long time since the last print. The deciding factor here is whether the printer contains a “real time clock”, which is kept alive by a battery. Typically mid-range and high-end printers contain such a clock. These printers know when they last printed, and may not run a maintenance cycle at all, or may wait until the next print job and perform the maintenance routines at that time. Printers without battery backed real time clocks do not know if power was off for a few minutes or a few months or something in between.

Unless the printer recycles the ink used for maintenance, ink will be consumed from all of the cartridges in your printer. If you are having streaky output and start a user-initiated cleaning cycle, that will typically use more ink than a routine maintenance cycle initiated by the printer. If you have to do multiple cleaning cycles or a “deep cleaning” cycle offered by some printers to get your printhead working properly again, those cycles will likely consume even more ink. If you have to replace the cartridge in an IPH printer, of course you lose all of the ink that was in the cartridge at the time.

So what should you do? If you have a relatively modern inkjet printer, your printer has been designed to shut down to very low power usage if it hasn’t been used for a while. It does consume some energy to keep the printer running, but a very modest amount. It won’t hurt your printer if you power it down every night when you power down your computer, as long as the printhead is parked either by entering power save mode or by pushing the power button on the printer. Our recommendation would be that you leave your printer powered on in normal usage conditions, and power it down if you will not use it for an extended period of time, on the order of a month or more. What you should not do is finish work on a project, print it out, and then immediately shut the printer down by killing the power to the printer. If you need to shut down right away, push the power button on the printer and it will prepare itself to shut down usually in less time than it takes for your PC to shut down.

Opinions expressed here and in any corresponding comments are the personal opinions of the original authors, not of HP and may not have been reviewed in advance by HP.

Stacie Savage | ‎12-15-2007 06:47 AM
Sorry you're having a problem with your Deskjet printer. My printer power expert advises that you unplug the printer, wait a few minutes and plug it back in. It will cause a "dirty power up" since it wasn't shut down properly but that doesn't hurt anything. After you turn it back on and it has time to do the dirty power up, you should retry the power button. Be sure to hold the power button down for three seconds. If it still doesn't work, the unit may have a problem. In that case, please try HP online customer support at〈=en&cc=us Let me know how it turns out.
Anonymous(anon) | ‎06-05-2008 06:22 AM

did my comment  go  thru on how  to print both sides of  paper.  Also  why  does  n-my printer print the second page first, & then the 1st page---  seems  like  a waste  of  paper ' will your  response  come thru  @ my e-mail address????? Not  sure  I will know  how to get back  to this page.

Thank You  Rose

Anonymous(anon) | ‎06-15-2008 02:53 PM

Hi I have a problem with my Officejet 6480 printer.

It has the Energy Star logo but what I have noticed is that the printer does NOT always powe down (i.e., put itself in standby mode when not in use for a while).  I can tell by looking at the display monitor light to see if its off or on.  A few times I have noticed that when after I print something, the display panel light is still on and lighted throughout the night and in some other cases, the display panel light just shuts off by itself - although i'd know right away that the printer is on because it is emitting a blue light for the wireless mode (this printer has a Wireless mode feature).    Appreciate any inpyt!

Anonymous(anon) | ‎08-17-2008 02:27 AM

Help!  My HP Deskjet D4160 will not print the color red. all other colors are fine.

Anonymous(anon) | ‎09-03-2008 09:19 PM

Just recently purchased a B8850 to print 13 x 19 prints.It does a beautiful job. However, there is one problem. printing full bleed 13 x 19 prints works for the first two or three prints but after that the printer fails to print the last 1/4 inch of the print. If I turn the printer off and let it rest a while it will print another two or three prints full bleed before doing the same thing. I make sure that the paper is inserted in the tray properly and that all is set up as it should be. Also I have been in the printing business for 56 years and have a fair knowledge of printing problems. Could this be a machine problem. Please respond quickly as I use the machine frequently.

Anonymous(anon) | ‎09-16-2008 10:47 PM

My DeskJet 932C printer has begun to give off "squeaks" when printing. These are not the "grinding noise" sometimes spoken of. Rather, these sound like lack of lubrication where two metal surfaces are in contact. Is there some place I might try to lubricate to solve this problem?

Anonymous(anon) | ‎09-23-2008 09:10 PM

I am having a problem with my 6480 printer.  It will feed a sheet partially in but then gets an error message: Out of paper, load paper then press ok.  Then it indicates "Aligning Cartridge" and goes back to Out of paper error message.  I cannot get it to print.  Any suggestions?

Anonymous(anon) | ‎10-11-2008 01:42 PM

HELP!!!  If we turn our printer off, then next time we go to use it nothing will print.  The computer shows the printer as offline and even if I turn it to online it still won't print.  I end up having to uninstall the program and then re-installing it. It is such a pain in the butt!  Anyone have any advice on how to fix this without uninstalling the printer program everytime?  

jwabell | ‎11-04-2008 12:19 AM

My 6480 prints fine and I use it for print jobs from three laptops in my house.  A couple of the laptops show the printer as "off line" if they havem't been printed from for a week or so.  Any suggestions?  I can't find a tab in HP Solutions to bring the printer back on line.

Anonymous(anon) | ‎11-14-2008 11:25 AM

I am having same problem with my 6480 printer as September 23, 2008 posting.  

It will feed a sheet partially in but then gets an error message: "out of paper, load paper then press ok".  I can press cancel and the sheet is ejected.  Issue another print job and same problem again with "out of paper".  Any suggestions?

Anonymous(anon) | ‎12-20-2008 03:14 AM

I have a 6480 all in one printer.  The auto answer light goes off by itself and I cannot receive faxes which I need for my business.  How do I make sure it stays on so I receive faxes? Is it on some kind of power saver mode and if so how do I make sure that is off.??

morrisco2 | ‎12-30-2008 12:34 PM

I have a problem with my Officejet 6480 printer.

It has the Energy Star logo but the printer is not powering down (i.e., put itself in standby mode when not in use for a while).  The display monitor stays lite all the time.  Does anyone know how I can turn on the power saver mode or what I have to do to correct this problem?  Does it never turn off if you use it in the Wireless mode?

Anonymous(anon) | ‎01-05-2009 09:33 AM

where do i go to put my computer back online?

Anonymous(anon) | ‎03-07-2009 07:41 AM

How can I change the power mode setting on the C51000? It annoys my husband to know end, as it is wireless, and he has to walk halfway across the house to power it on.

Anonymous(anon) | ‎04-18-2009 12:02 AM

I have a J5080 inkjet as a backup printer in my office. It has been unplugged for quite a while and now will not print. I read about cleaning the print head but how do I do that?

Anonymous(anon) | ‎07-30-2009 01:07 AM

Unfortunately, cleaning cycles waste ink but is a necessary method of cleaning the print heads.

This should be done routinely and whenever you change an ink cartridge.  This will also purge the ink cartridge and draw ink into the printhead.

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