The Lowdown On Home Copiers

So you thought you had all the equipment you could possibly need at home: a computer, a laser printer, a fax machine. But if you run a business out of your house or have a bad habit of leaving your resume' on the office copying machine, you may want to consider adding a personal copier to your arsenal.

Home photocopiers, which range from around $400 to $2,000 are comparable in size to a large microwave oven. A basic machine has a top that moves during the copying process and makes only standard 8 1/2-by-11-in. copies, one page at a time. The more expensive units will reduce and enlarge, handle legal-size paper, and even print in different colors.

Canon, Sharp, and Xerox are the leaders in this market. Canon's most basic unit, the PC-1, requires you to put the original on the glass top and feed each blank sheet of copy paper into the machine manually. Copy speed is 19 seconds a page, so bringh a book. The Sharp Z-57 is about twice as fast and can handle letter and legal-size pages. The feeding mechanism is similar to an office copier, using paper trays for the blank pages intsead of a manual feed. The Xerox 5260 will reduce to 64% and 75% or enlarge to 124%. Even though it's an upper-end producet, the 5260 is fairly compact, measuring 18 in. wide, 17 in. long, and 10 in. deep.

CARTRIDGE COSTS. These machines use changeable ink cartridges that can produce about 3,000 copies and cost about $100 to replace. That's fine if you don't do a lot of copying. Say you spend $1,000 for a machine estimated to last four years, depreciating $20 a month. You're paying about 25~ a copy if you make 100 copyies per month--20~ in depreciation plus a nickel for paper and ink.

But if you make hundreds or even thousands of copes a month, those $100 cartridges can add up. Instead, you might consider buying a low-end business copier from such makers as Toshiba, Konica, or Mita. Your initial investment will be greater--these machines start at about $1,300--but they rely on a toner system that reduces your cost per copy by about 2.5 cents. A toner cartridge for a Toshiba BD-3810, a basic small-business copier, sells for about $40 and can yield up to 5,00 copies.

Most dealers say both personal and small-business machines are fairly reliable. If you're worried about breaking-downs, buy a service contract. Canon and Sharp dealers offer three years of service for $100. Xerox throws it in for free.

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