Looking for the best water cooler dispenser? In this article we take a look at the different options available to help you find what works best for you.
In this article we’ll cover:
- What are water coolers and how do they work.
- Different types of water coolers.
- What to consider before buying.
- Which water cooler is best.
- Frequently asked questions.
What Are Water Coolers?
First off, let’s get this question out of the way. What is a water cooler? Water coolers dispense drinking water. That’s the short answer.
But they do more than just dispense water. They provide convenience and solve the practical problem of needing safe drinking water. If you are tired of constantly refilling a small water filtering pitcher or want the option to have hot and cold water at the touch of a button, then a water cooler is a good option for you.
Now, there are a few good reasons to have a water cooler in your home or office.
- You have limited space in your refrigerator and can’t store a large pitcher for drinking water.
- You need hot water often and don’t want to constantly use your stove or microwave oven.
- Your tap water is not good and you want a healthier and cleaner option.
Types Of Water Cooler Dispensers
You might be curious about how water coolers work and what types are available before deciding to buy one. Good idea. There are two main types of water coolers on the market. It has to do with how the water is sourced.
The first type uses a water jug or bottle as the source. The large bottle can usually be refilled or delivered as needed. With this type, the water is either top loading or bottom loading. Each type works a little differently by either using gravity or a pump to draw the water needed.
The second type of water cooler uses a direct connection to a water source. These are commonly hooked up directly using a hose or tubing. These typically have filtration systems on board to improve water quality.
With both categories, the water coolers usually have mechanical features that provide heating and cooling of the water. The cold water is available with one nozzle and the hot is available with the other.
Below, we’ll look a little deeper at the different types of water coolers available.
Top Loading Water Cooler Dispensers
Top loading water coolers use a large water bottle on top of the dispenser as the source. The bottles used are typically 3-5 gallon jugs. When setting up this type of water cooler, you tip the jug upside down into the top of the water cooler. The water settles into a reservoir where it is made available for dispensing!
Top loading models are very easy to set up and are user friendly. But they do require regular lifting of a heavy bottle.
Bottom Loading Water Cooler Dispensers
If lifting a 5 gallon jug up and onto a dispenser sounds like too much lifting, then a bottom loading water cooler may be a good option for you. The bottle is placed under the dispensing area and is accessed using a door on the unit. Instead of gravity pushing the water like the top loading option, the bottom loading models use a pump to pull the water for dispensing.
Similar to top loading options, bottom loading water coolers are easy to set up and use. The fact that you do not need to lift the bottle up and onto the dispenser makes it a little easier on the body. But you do still need to remember to replace your bottles and it does require regular heavy lifting to refill.
Bottleless Water Cooler Dispensers
If you want to avoid dealing with bottles of water, going the bottleless route is an easy choice! These models use a direct connection to your home or office water supply. A hose is hooked up from either under your sink or connection similar to a refrigerator water supply.
Despite the extra time it may take for installation, many people find that this is the most convenient option. You don’t need to remember to have extra water bottles on hand and you don’t need to do any heavy lifting.
Countertop Water Cooler Dispensers
Countertop water coolers are available in both top loading and bottleless options. The defining feature of this type of model is that it doesn’t take up precious floor space. They are designed to be compact to use on the countertop instead of being set up on the floor. If you live in a small space or prefer not to have a tall water cooler, check out a countertop option.
Best Water Cooler Options
Before we dig into things to consider and detailed reviews, here’s a summary of our top picks.
- Top loading water cooler: Brio Limited Edition Top Loading Water Cooler Dispenser
- Bottom loading water cooler: Avalon Bottom Loading Water Cooler Water Dispenser
- Bottleless water cooler: Avalon A5 Self Cleaning Bottleless Water Cooler Dispenser
- Countertop water cooler: Brio Self-Cleaning Countertop Bottleless Water Cooler Dispenser
What To Think About Before Buying a Water Cooler Dispenser
How much water do you typically use in a given day or week? For those with large families or people who are cooking often, having to refill the water cooler often might be a pain in the neck.
Common capacity for full-sized water coolers is between 3-5 gallons. In other words, if the model uses water jugs as the source, the jug will need to be replaced after it’s depleted. You can typically find 5 gallon jugs sold at grocery stores, online, etc.
However, if you opt for a bottleless water cooler, you won’t need to worry about capacity. That’s because the unit will be hooked up directly to the water source. One thing you will need to consider with a bottleless option is that you’ll need to replace the filters periodically and clean it.
Keep in mind that assembly and hook up will be needed. But don’t worry, the installation process is usually pretty painless. But be aware there is a difference between the bottled and the bottleless options in terms of installation time.
Models that use a bottle will require the least amount of time to install. Usually, you’ll just need to unpack the unit, place a few pieces, hook up the bottle and plug it in. Voila!
Bottleless water coolers will usually arrive with hoses for hookup and a filtration system that will need to be primed. Although the bottleless option takes a little more time to install than the bottled option, you won’t have to deal with trying to remember to get refills or taking the time to refill the unit when it’s empty. So there is a trade off.
Maintenance and Cleaning
Are you the type of person that doesn’t mind cleaning and maintaining things in your home? Or are you so busy that you barely have time to take a shower?
If life is busy and you don’t want to have to remember to do an additional cleaning task, there are self-cleaning models that you might want to consider.
However, for models that are not-self cleaning, the process is usually quite easy. Each manufacturer will have different recommendations for how often and how exactly to clean. But expect to perform a little light cleaning on a monthly basis at least.
One more consideration is replacement of water filters. Some models utilize reverse osmosis or carbon filters. These have a limited life span and will need replacing. So keep this in mind as you shop around.
Energy efficiency is another feature you need to consider when buying the best water dispenser. Check that it’s Energy Star approved for energy efficiency. The style and design of the water cooler are other primary consideration. Some will have top storage while others come with bottom storage which makes loading different.
How Much Space You Have
Also, the amount of space will inform your choice of a water cooler dispenser. If you’re in an office or apartment with a limited amount of space, choose the unit that occupies the least space. That way, you can squeeze even in the corner of the room and still enjoy the cold delicious water and refreshing hot beverages at your convenience.
Best Water Cooler Dispenser Reviews
1. Best Top Loading Option: Brio Limited Edition
Brio is a trusted name in the water cooler market. This model has a nice stainless steel finish which looks great in most modern day kitchens. The classic top loading design may make you think of what you’d see in an office space. But don’t be fooled, this is a great option for your home.
It is easy to set up and user friendly. Let’s dive in.
Setting It Up
When it comes to setup, it doesn’t get much easier than this! All you need is a 3 – 5 gallon water jug filled with water. You will also need an electrical outlet to plug in the water cooler.
Keep in mind that Brio suggests setting up the water cooer at least 4 inches away from the wall. They also suggest not placing it in direct sunlight or right next to a heat source.
Once the water jug is placed upside down in the reservoir for about 5 minutes, you can begin to use the water. But it’s a good idea to not drink the first few cups that are dispensed from the dispenser in order for any residues to get washed out.
If you head over to Amazon, you will see some customers say that they noticed a plastic taste for the first 5 gallons or so. However, the manufacturer does suggest draining the first 4 cups of water before initial use.
So, be sure to follow the Brio instructions. And be prepared to perhaps drain more water than expected in order to get a good clean taste.
This top loading Brio comes with 3 water temperatures (hot, cold and room temperature).
Most water dispensers you come across will have the options of hot and cold water. But room temperature is not always an option. This can be useful for those who don’t always want to drink cold water. Also, if you want to use the dispenser to water your plants, you may want to opt for the room temperature water.
Are you concerned about a member of your family accidentally pouring hot water from the dispenser? If so, then you will be glad to have two-step dispensing on the hot water spout. Just release the lock above the hot water spout and then have access to nice steamy water at your fingertips.
Another nice feature is a night light at the dispense point. This helps ensure you are getting water from the right spout when it is pitch dark.
Water Dispenser Space
When looking for a water cooler, be sure that the opening under the spout is large enough for the containers you’ll be filling with water. In the case of the Brio Limited Edition, you can comfortably fit a large 24 ounce water bottle on the ledge to fill it.
With larger containers such as a pitcher, you will need to tilt the pitcher as it is being filled.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Cleaning the Brio is very easy. The dispensers should be wiped down regularly with a soft cloth. The dispenser tray can be cleaned with a mild detergent and cloth. And the radiator condenser at the back of the unit should be dusted off or cleaned with a vacuum if any dust starts to accumulate.
Brio suggests draining the water reservoir when cleaning or when going on vacation to keep the water clean. This is done by taking the bottle off the top and emptying out the water.
Pretty straightforward, right?
Let’s talk about the downsides to the Brio Limited Edition.
First of all, it is not a self cleaning water cooler. Though the effort it takes to clean and maintain is minimal, it still takes time and effort to clean.
Also, there is the taste concern. Due to the fact that much of the appliance is made of plastic, it makes sense there may be a plastic taste when it is first delivered. But be sure to drain out the first cups of water and possibly more to eliminate any undesirable tastes.
2. Best Bottom Loading Option: Avalon Bottom Loading
Not interested in seeing a large bottle of water on top of your water dispenser? Or maybe you don’t have a tall space available for a top loading water cooler. The Avalon Bottom Loading Water Cooler is a well-designed option for you.
Setting It Up
The Avalon Bottom loading water cooler comes with great instructions. They are illustrated and easy to follow.
Though the machine is cleaned at the factory prior to shipping, they suggest following the cleaning instructions prior to use, if that is a concern for you.
Once cleaned, put the water cooler in a place that is shaded and has a clearance of at least 4 inches from the wall. The drip tray will need to be put into place and the water bottle properly placed.
From that point, it is just a matter of plugging it in, turning on the power and letting the pump fill the water reservoir. It is normal for the pump on the Avalon to run for a little over 10 minutes the first time it is filled.
As with the previous Brio review, the Avalon does have some folks concerned over the taste. For example, a plastic or metallic taste has been a concern for some customers.
What helps the most in the situation of having some undesirable tastes is to ensure you flush out the lines by running a lot of water through the water dispenser spouts. Good opportunity to water your plants if you don’t like wasting water!
Also, be sure to use good quality water. Sometimes it can be tough to differentiate if a particular flavor is coming from the water dispenser or from the water itself. It’s worth considering!
This Avalon has 3 different water temperatures. Cold and hot water, along with cool water are the available temperatures for dispensing.
As with other high quality water dispensers, this model has a safety lock on the hot water spout. This helps keep kids safe from unintended dispensing of piping hot water.
Water Dispenser Space
The dispensing area to fill your bottles and containers is about 9 inches tall. For large pitchers and glasses, you may need to hold the bottle at an angle.
Cleaning and Maintenance
The manufacturer suggests manually cleaning the water cooler dispenser every six months.
The outside can be cleaned with a clean rag and disinfectant of your choice.
The inside of the unit can be cleaned by easily turning it off and removing a few pieces. It can either be rinsed with just water or you can use citric acid crystals or other disinfectants diluted in water. This will help to remove mineral deposit build up.
The Avalon bottom loading water cooler does have some weaknesses.
First, the buttons to dispense water on the machine can be hard to push. Though the issue doesn’t occur for all who buy the machine, there may be some defects in this area.
Problems with the water pump may also be something that a buyer might encounter. Because this type of unit doesn’t use gravity like a top loading option, it must pump the water into the reservoir. This is great to hide the water bottle, but the pump is one additional piece that can have issues.
3. Best Bottleless Option: Avalon A5 Self Cleaning
First, it doesn’t require bottle refills. So no need to buy replacement water jugs. This type of unit is also called “point of use” because it draws water as needed. With this unit being bottleless, you’ll be able to enjoy fresh, filtered water using your home’s water source.
Another big time saver is that this is a self cleaning model. If you’re anything like me, remembering to perform maintenance tasks around the house can be difficult. Even if I do remember, setting aside the time for these sort of tasks can be real challenging. With this model, all you have to remember is to press a button once a week to start the self cleaning cycle (more on this below).
Setting It Up
The Avalon A5 takes a bit more setup and installation skill than models that use a bottle. The reason being that the water cooler needs to be hooked up directly from a water source under the sink or from your refrigerator water line.
The instructions are brief but easy to understand. You certainly don’t need to be a plumber to connect the water line. But if you wouldn’t touch plumbing with a 10 foot pole, you may want to hire a professional to help you out.
Another step in the set up process is installing the water filtration system. You will need to first flush the carbon block filters before use. Each of the two filters will take two minute to flush.
Other than connecting the water line and installing the filters, this water cooler dispenser is easy to set up. A little more upfront work equates to less maintenance time later.
With bottles of water, the taste is almost entirely based on the quality of the water in the bottle. But with the bottleless option, there some different factors to consider.
Since the water comes from your home’s water source, you will need to consider what your tap water tastes like. The filters help, but won’t take away all the tastes that may exist from your well or municipal water.
Also consider the fact that this unit has a two stage filtration system. One filter is a multi-layer sediment which helps with removal of course materials like rust or dirt. The second filter is carbon filter which helps remove odors, chemicals and organic matter. The filters work together to keep the water safe and tasting good
Similar to the other options reviewed, this unit offers three dispensing temperatures. You can choose from crisp cold, cool and piping hot.
The hot water spout has a child safety lock to keep curious hands from getting burned.
The built in night light also offers a sense of safety to ensure you can see during late night water refills.
Water Dispenser Space
The bottle dispensing area is about 9 inches tall. This allows most bottles to easily set in the dispensing area comfortably. Pitchers will likely need to be placed at an angle to fill.
The water cooler unit itself measures 13”(L)x12”(W)x41”(H).
Cleaning and Maintenance
The Avalon A5 requires little maintenance and is easy to clean.
The self cleaning function is as easy as pressing a button. Avalon suggests using the cleaning function once per week. When the button is pressed, it releases ozone into the water system. This kills bacteria and bio-films that are built up.
An additional maintenance task is replacing the water filters. This should be done about every 6 months.
Bottleless water dispensers require some involved upfront set up time. Some customers may not like the amount of installation required.
Also, with more features comes more things that can potentially go wrong. Everything from the pump to the self cleaning functionality are components that don’t exist in the simpler water dispenser units. But hey, more convenience requires more functionality!
4. Best Countertop Option: Brio Self-Cleaning Countertop
For those with limited space in the kitchen, this Brio countertop water cooler is an excellent option. Similar to the Avalon A5, this is point of use, meaning it uses your home or office water source. And it also is self cleaning with a great water filtration system.
Best of all, it is only 16 inches tall! This will rest on most countertops and easily fit under most cupboards. This frees up precious floor space and keeps your water dispenser in a convenient location.
Setting It Up
Installation of the Brio countertop water cooler does take time and effort. Like other bottleless water dispensers, the water needs to come from somewhere! So, you’ll need to connect the water dispenser to a cold water line. Under the sink and the refrigerator line are common sources to use.
Additionally, the water filters will require flushing prior to use. Each filter should be flushed for about 5 minutes for proper use.
As is true with other point of use dispensers, the water source plays a role in the taste of the water. However, the two stage filtration system helps a lot. The course sediment filter takes care of larger contaminants while the carbon filter takes care of smaller particles. If properly installed, you’ll end up with high-quality and good-tasting water.
Super cold, cool and hot…This dispenser has got the temperature spectrum covered. This is great for convenience and time-savings.
Since the hot water dispensed from this unit can cause burns, it includes a child lock. This helps ensure hot water is dispensed only when intended.
Water Dispenser Space
The unit itself is 16.9 in (H) x 11.9 in (W) x 22.0 in (D)
The dispensing area is has an adequate amount of space, allowing most bottles to rest under the dispenser easily. With larger containers and pitchers, you may have to fill at an angle.
Cleaning and Maintenance
This Brio unit has an automated UV cleaning functionality that regularly sanitizes your water system.
Brio suggests also disinfecting the outside of the unit every 3 months. Removing water mineral build up can be done every 6 months using citric acid crystals.
Installation can be time consuming. If you are not the handy type, you may want to hire a plumber or handyman to help connect the water line.
If you have a limited amount of countertop space, you may want to reconsider purchasing a unit like this. It will take up some valuable space. However, if you are going to get a water cooler you have the choice of using floor space or countertop space. So there are tradeoffs you need to consider with each type.
To figure out what water cooler to buy, you really need to consider your needs and wants.
First think about where you have space for a water cooler. Do you have more countertop space or floor space to keep the dispenser? Once you decide where you want to keep it, you’ll be one step closer to a decision.
Once you’ve decided between countertop and floor models, you can determine if you want to use water bottles as the source or if you’d prefer a bottleless option which connects directly to your home water source.
Lastly, consider the bells and whistles like self cleaning capabilities and advanced water filtration systems.
You should always consult your water cooler user manual for cleaning directions. Most dispensers suggest using a citric acid crystal product to clean out mineral deposit build up.
That being said, vinegar is a great natural product for loosening mineral built up and cleaning bacteria. Just be sure that if you use it to clean the internal workings of the water dispenser that you thoroughly flush with water. This will ensure that you don’t get an unpleasant vinegar taste in your drinking water.
Water coolers range in cost from $100 to over $1000. The cost depends on the brand, quality and features of the model.
The terms water cooler and water dispenser are often used interchangeably. However, technically speaking a water dispenser might just be a container that allows you to dispense water. Whereas, a water cooler is designed to chill and dispense water.
As described in this article, water dispensers on the market today usually have many more advanced features than just the ability to cool and dispense water.
Installing a water cooler is a DIY project in most cases. Top loading and bottom loading water coolers are very easy to install. Bottleless water coolers are a little more difficult to install. They involve connecting a water line from your home or office water source. Though this doesn’t require a plumber, you might choose to hire a professional for hooking up a bottleless water cooler.
Absolutely! If you are not interested in purchasing a water cooler, you can rent one. A quick internet search for “water cooler rental” will bring up plenty of options to choose from.