How to Determine Copier Life

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A copier's acquisition and operating costs make it a sizable investment for home offices or small businesses. In exchange for that chunk of change, you want the best -- and most durable -- performance out of your hardware. Choosing a copier means matching equipment attributes to your typical output and estimating your future needs. To assess how long that copier will last, once you put it in service, look at various measures of its performance.

Duty Cycles

Copier manufacturers publish this life-expectancy specification for virtually every model they manufacture. The duty cycle represents a monthly output volume you can use to compare one copier to another across all of the manufacturers whose products you consider at purchase time. Don't mistake it for a performance statistic, however, because it only estimates the upper limits of an individual machine's endurance. Instead, look for average or recommended monthly print volume, two specifications that estimate in-service output capabilities. If your monthly usage spikes predictably at specific times of each month, verify that the copier you choose can cope with your heaviest usage. Your in-service environment can affect and even limit equipment life, if you run your copier on a circuit with less-than-optimal power, or keep it in an area with poor ventilation or high levels of dust.

Cartridges and Other Consumables

Estimated in pages, toner-cartridge lifespans help you assess copier life in two ways. First, they provide an operating-cost comparison measure among hardware models. Second, cartridge statistics affirm whether the manufacturer classifies a machine as heavy duty or lightweight. High-yield consumables tend to correlate with high-performance machines. Like duty cycles, however, consumable lifespans don't represent the actual number of pages you can expect to eke out of a set of toner cartridges, not unless you print the kind of light-coverage documents that manufacturers use in their toner-cartridge test suites.

Warranties and Service Contracts

Most copiers and their upgrade parts carry warranties between 90 days and one year. If you lease or purchase a copier from a local reseller, you can obtain a service contract along with the equipment. Depending on the terms of your contract, it may cover all costs of consumables and routine service. As long as you pay your monthly or annual service invoice, the agreement stays in effect, but its price eventually rises to reflect the dwindling value of the hardware it covers and the increasing likelihood of major component failures. Ask the reseller to quote the annual cost of service coverage over five or more years of equipment use, and note the point at which the price rises steeply. Some manufacturers also publish a statistic that declares how long they continue making parts and supplies for an individual product model after they stop producing it.

Reviews and Usage Reports

Consumer reviews and reports can help you assess the likely durability of a copier model, especially one that sees widespread adoption in the marketplace. An individual review may not carry much weight, unless you can substantiate its claims, but a consistent pattern of comments helps establish the validity of positive or negative evaluations. Look for reputable online sources, including merchant sites that feature reviews connected to their merchandise pages and sites that serve as comment boards for user opinions. Consumer review boards and publications tend to focus on mainstream merchandise, but you if you're considering a multifunction printer instead of a copier, you may find usage tests and output assessments in popular periodicals.