Back in December I compared various printer ink systems to determine which ones were the most efficient and could save the most plastic, ink, and packaging. One of the options was the Silo Ink system, which I had not personally tried myself. While the system itself is made from plastic, it can save more plastic (from cartridges) in the long run for people who use their printers more often that I do.
Fake Plastic Fish reader Sunny Yukon, who wrote a guest post for this blog in June of last year, took the initiative to try out the system. The following is a comprehensive review of her findings after using the system for a couple of months:
Never have to buy ink cartridges again?
by Sunny Yukon
It sounded too good to be true, but boy was I intrigued. In my somewhat remote location, ink refill programs had quality issues, and while a major business supply store will take back cartridges for recycling, they then get shipped out a long way, so I don’t know that there’s much of an energy savings in the end. As much as I reduce my ink use where possible, in my business it can’t be done away with, and at home it just takes one Grade 6 homework project and our ink is gone. So there I was, with printer ink listed on my perpetual shopping list, and Oh! the stress and fuel waste if I ran out and had to make an extra trip to town for more, which invariably always happens in the midst of hectic days with reports due yesterday — you’re sitting there with a been-there-done-that head nod, aren’t you?
I was so excited to learn of the Silo Ink product line on Beth’s post in December, and the possibilities it could offer, that I had to learn more. [Disclosure: Sunny received a review copy of the product to test out and keep for herself.] Their systems give you a larger ink reservoir that sits outside your printer. It comes prefilled, and you purchase bottles of each ink colour to refill them as needed. At a glance, you can see if your ink is getting low, so you don’t get surprised in the middle of that project due by noon when you’re running out of magenta and all your pictures are printing with a green tinge. You know exactly what I mean don’t you! Right away my head started spinning with all the side benefits in saving costs, time, and waste!
Reservoir sizes may vary for different systems, but in my case you can see the size compared to an average computer mouse. It uses very little space on my desk.
Buying Local vs. Online Ordering
I use my printer for a small business and some personal use. I shop locally as much as possible, at the very least because I ask locals to support my business too. So when I take the leap to order in products that I can’t get nearby, I make sure that not only do I love the product, but that the benefits are great enough to justify the energy used in packing and shipping my personal order, and that any other costs are not prohibitive.
My product arrived in about 10 days. Currently Silo Ink is offering free shipping anywhere in the United States. Silo Ink also offers free exchanges or returns if there is a problem with your order, and ink refill purchases will come with a pre-paid return label for their Silo Ink Bottle Recycling Program. While free shipping doesn’t apply for Canada, I was still pleased that they support recycling for their own products, and I like to support companies that take that extra step of responsibility.
I paid extra attention to how the product was packaged.
A little heavy on the plastic tape, however the big plastic window on top was added on by the postal service for my import papers. That’s a topic for another day.
You can see in the photo of the opened package that there is some internal plastic packaging that could be improved on, but overall I’m pleased after years of clamshell-style packaging for my ink cartridges. There is a small plastic zip bag that could be replaced by a paper envelope, and a piece of foam cushioning. These are both items that I will be able to reuse, however I expect they would get thrown away by most people. With the cardboard forms holding the product in place in the box, I don’t think the foam is truly necessary. The cartridges and reservoirs are also shrink wrapped; this will help to keep them in place, but more importantly help contain any ink if for any reason there should be a leak (and they look durable enough that that shouldn’t be an issue). I’m not sure if there is a better way to do this, so I will accept that relatively small amount of plastic for my comparison.
How about their web site: I played around a bit, and found that there are some areas that the website could be improved on, such as when items are added to the cart, you are sent right to your “basket”, and if you want to add more items you need to keep going back a page for each one. It also wasn’t clear if the cartridge system came with “starter ink”, however when I sent a message via the web site’s Customer Service page, I was pleased to get a prompt reply that it is.
The Customer Service page offers a “Call Me” feature; click and Google will connect you for free. Sounds great and I tried it, but it didn’t work for me. Now I don’t know if my computer settings won’t allow it, but there wasn’t any helpful information, so I couldn’t call directly as they don’t give their phone number elsewhere on the page. As I mentioned though, emails get a prompt reply.
There is a forum section on their site that offers some information, and it allows both registered members and unregistered guests to post. I looked through and I think there is a great opportunity here for Silo Ink to offer installation instructions for downloading as needed; I would have loved to see some photos specific to my product beforehand because I like visuals, and other guests have made posts to the same effect. A trouble shooting section would also be great so that people in time zones outside of Silo Ink’s operating hours will have the opportunity to solve any issues instead of waiting to the next day. The forum also needs to be moderated; unfortunately there are spam posts that have nothing to do with their products, and no one wants to waste their time sorting through garbage.
And now the big question: What is the cost comparison? I’m all for paying a little more (within reason) for a better product and that includes sustainability features. I’m also a mom of two hungry boys, so I’m big on watching my budget. When I looked at the numbers comparing Silo Ink to my name brand ink (my only local option) I was blown away!
Ratios will vary depending on individual printer cartridge sizes, so I recommend that you make your own comparison for your product. To give you an idea though, for a single cartridge for my printer, my cost is $23.50 for black, and $13.33 for a colour cartridge.* My refill ink cost from Silo Ink will be about $3.00 per black cartridge, and $1.90 per colour cartridge, a savings of over 85%! I rechecked my numbers several times; I was so much in disbelief. In addition to that cost savings, I’ll have no more empty cartridges to recycle.
*For cost comparison, I used the online US prices from Office Depot multi-packs. My actual local costs are higher because of my remote location; but for the purpose of this review I wanted to use prices that were available to the majority of the readers, allowing for a more accurate comparison.
The one time cost of the Compatible Ink Cartridge System for my printer would be paid off in less that 5 months of use, and since the system comes with ink in it, the actual cost of the system is lower then it first appears. Again, because your printer and usage will differ, please make your own comparison. Silo Ink took my printer model and usage details and did their own calculations to be sure the product would be a cost savings for me, and I’m sure they would do the same for you.
First I want to say 3 magic words: No Software Required. That’s right, when you change computers, it will still work. When you update programs, it will still work. When your smarty-pants little brother messes around with your settings trying to make your computer run faster and better because he thinks he’s being helpful, your ink will still be there. When grandpa hits the wrong button and prints 100 copies instead of 10, you’ll still have ink leftover! As far as I’m concerned, the simplicity of how the system works, its lack of moving parts and computer chips, is one of the best features of this product. Even though my printer had been telling me for two weeks that my ink was low, it kept printing, and of course I can see at a glance that the reservoir actually still has plenty of ink. No more surprises, no more waste!
The ink itself is premium grade dye ink. It has a shelf life of two years, and it is recommended that you keep it out of direct sunlight. Silo Ink is currently undergoing further testing for how well printed materials will compare to the name brand inks when the product is exposed to regular sunlight, and I look forward to the results being posted on their website.
For my own testing purposes, on the day I received the product I printed out colour comparisons with the old ink, then again once the new ink was installed and I was sure it was flowing through the system. If anything I found the Silo Ink to be slightly brighter, but it’s barely perceptible. My printer isn’t one for high-quality photo printing to start with, so I won’t speak for that, but for the numbers of reports that I create that do include photographs, it does a good job, and at the very least, I can breath easier when my printer has a cranky moment and needs to be realigned or have its ink jets cleaned, as any ink lost to these normal maintenance issues are now much less costly.
When I installed the reservoirs, it was quick and simple. However, perhaps as a result of shaking during shipping, there was a lot of air in the hoses when I installed it, and it took several cleaning cycles on my printer to work it through so that ink was flowing consistently for all the colours. It took me awhile, but once done it has worked fine.
The system comes with air filters that you need to install. Their design may vary between systems, and on my system it was hard to tell which way was up. A close up photo would have made the directions more clear. These were both issues that I looked at the website for troubleshooting tips but there wasn’t anything to address it. It wasn’t rocket science to figure things out, but helpful tips on the website would have saved time.
Ease of Use:
What about actually using the system? There’s nothing to it! I love that the ink tanks are see-through — I know exactly how much is left, and I’m amazed at how long it’s lasting! The instructions tell you not to let the ink level fall below 30%. Simple enough, but it would be nice if there was a fill-line marked on the tanks to take out any guesswork, especially when there are multiple users of a printer. I haven’t had to add ink yet, but it appears that it will be a simple process. I may need to adjust the location of my printer so that the external tanks are out of the sunlight in the mid afternoon, but that is an easy fix to ensure the quality is maintained.
After two months of use, I’m very happy with the product, and excited to share it with people who comment on the reservoir tanks sitting on my desk. I encourage you to see if the Silo Ink product lines include your own printer cartridges, and see how much money and plastic waste you can save. I know when my old printer is beyond repair, I will be checking what my Silo Ink options are before buying a new printer, to make sure I can continue with with this great feature.
Disclaimer: I have no other affiliation with Silo Ink. Silo Ink provided me with a sample at no charge for the purpose of this review. I will receive no monetary compensation. I am allowed to keep the sample, and if I wasn’t I’d buy it anyways; I am that pleased with the product. I did this review out of my own interest in plastic reduction and cost savings.