Laser Printers Without The Power-On Surge?
October 19, 2011 1:14 PM   Subscribe

You know that power surge that happens when you turn on a laser printer and it sucks up as much juice as it can? Are there laser printers that don't do that? I'm replacing a Brother HL-2170W. I need good quality monochrome printing. No scanning, photos, etc. Small and quiet are pluses. Wireless is a must. I'll use it with a MacBook. Every laser printer I've had dims the lights, etc., when it powers up. What should I look for in the specs to identify printers that minimize this? Wattage? Are guides/reviews online that address this issue?
posted by justcorbly to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
I can't help you on the printer front, but I can provide the electrical engineering term for that in case it helps in your search: "surge current" or "inrush current"
posted by introp at 1:23 PM on October 19, 2011

The have a heating element to heat up the toner, it's going to suck juice or it's going to take forever to warm up.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:26 PM on October 19, 2011

Doc Neg, I'd trade 2-3 minutes for a smaller power-on hit.
posted by justcorbly at 1:30 PM on October 19, 2011

I am very surprised to hear about your laser printer problem.
I use Brother HL-2170W (in fact two of them).
I just now turned both on at the same time and the lights did not dim.
They start up fast for me.

Sorry for your experience.
posted by JayRwv at 1:32 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Might be easier, depending on your location, to get a dedicated outlet for the printer.
posted by notsnot at 1:43 PM on October 19, 2011

I think this will largely depend on the electricity in your home. You might notice the same effect when you turn on a vacuum cleaner or a blow dryer.

You should be able to eliminate or at least mitigate the effect with an uninterruptible power supply; something like this.
posted by VTX at 3:33 PM on October 19, 2011

The home-office sized battery backups I've used in the past have have all had warnings basically saying not to plug a laser printer into the battery side.

I've got a small Brother laser printer as well - it dims the lights at my new apartment, but didn't at any of the places where I've lived previously. Think it's just how the place is wired (newer construction than the other places I've lived, oddly enough).

I'd be afraid that the goal for most printer manufacturers would be to have a printer that goes from turned off to ready to print as fast as possible. Maybe look for a printer with a bunch of reviews complaining that it takes a long time to power up?
posted by itheearl at 4:23 PM on October 19, 2011

I also have a Brother HL-2170W. It does not dim the lights at the current location but it did at the last one. What you want is modern electrical work or an independent circuit for the print, not a different printer. Not sure why you care about the dimming, but all laser printers consume a lot of power and will do that in many homes.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:26 PM on October 19, 2011

if you go with a UPS, check out the manual first to make sure that the UPS can deal with a laser printer being attached (many, especially cheaper ones, can't) and that is big enough to support the unit while you're actually using it. that printer draws 460 watts during operation, so the UPS will need to be at least that size to support it, or you'll overload it. (a 500 watt UPS won't last very long under full load, either, so take that into consideration. this 600 watt unit lasts a grand total of 3 minutes under a 600 watt load.) it's going to draw a bunch more power when it starts up, too, so a sufficiently underpowered UPS may either not help at all or will overload and shut off when you try to print things. (as an aside, my - albeit somewhat older - 1400VA/940wt UPSes all have manuals that say not to run a laser printer on anything smaller than 1400VA. these UPSes, however, are also quite large and beefy units that were designed to support network servers.)

your best bet would be to find a printer with the lowest operating power consumption. for example, this HP printer draws 370 watts on average. (or, switch to an inkjet if you can. inkjets use very little power.)
posted by mrg at 4:36 PM on October 19, 2011

forgot to add: most consumer-level UPSes aren't really going to work for this anyway given that they don't actually use the batteries until your power is out. a continuous on-line UPS will run connected devices off of the batteries at all times and will only use the line power for recharging. you would need one of those to buffer your printer against your home's AC wiring.
posted by mrg at 4:45 PM on October 19, 2011

Yes, mrg, I have a home APC UPS, it's at about 20% capacity with a MacBook, a Time Capsule and two external drives plugged into it. It isn't intended to power up a laser printer.

I'm looking at inkjets, but the consumer models all seem to emphasize photos, something I wouldn't need. I also wonder if ink would dry and clog, because I can go weeks without using the printer.
posted by justcorbly at 8:53 PM on October 19, 2011

Inkjet cartridges will absolutely dry out and clog if you go weeks without using them. We have a low-end professional quality Epson inkjet at work that gets used about six times a year and pretty much every time I use it, I have to spend a ton of time cleaning and re-calibrating, etc. It wastes a ton of ink and a ton of paper and a ton of my time. At least half the time I have to replace all the cartridges, meaning they only get used once or twice before being tossed. Total pain in the ass.

Laser printers are so much cheaper per page, and especially if you are only going to print with the black anyway, I can't imagine any benefit of an inkjet other than that power problem.
posted by looli at 9:10 PM on October 19, 2011

Apart from a momentary light dim, is there a problem beyond the aesthetics of the issue? Things that really need conditioned power have regulators and capacitors in them to deal with exactly this kind of issue and your lights pretty much don't care.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:45 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Kid, the drop in current can't be good for the other equipment I use. It stresses the UPS, which displays a fault for the duration. It's an annoyance I'd like to avoid if I can.

Also, the 2170W lost it's real wireless ability a couple of OS X upgrades ago. Now, I use it with via USB cable to my router, which negates most of the benefit of wireless for me.

I'm going to take the advice to look for a lower-wattage laser printer.
posted by justcorbly at 6:38 AM on October 20, 2011

It's an annoyance I'd like to avoid if I can.

This is a legitimate gripe and kind of my point about aesthetics.

Your other equipment deals with current going to zero 120 times every second, so unless it is also drawing a lot of juice (and most sensitive systems don't) or someone was trying to save a few cents on a capacitor it's likely that you'd not see any power drop on the active component side of the power supply and for the capacitor, it's just business as usual.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:36 AM on October 21, 2011

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