Staying hydrated is key for a healthy lifestyle. A water cooler offers easy access to a plentiful supply of cold, refreshing water. This convenient appliance is useful in the workplace, in private homes, in businesses—anywhere there are people who appreciate liquid refreshment on demand.
Water coolers come in a range of styles and designs. There are countertop, wall-mounted, plumbed-in (point-of-use), and freestanding units to fit any space. These coolers don’t just dispense freezing cold water, either. They can dispense cold, cool, room temperature, or hot water in an instant. The best water coolers are durable, easy to use, and easy to clean. Stay refreshed with these best water cooler options for the home or the office.
- BEST OVERALL: Brio Water Cooler Water Dispenser
- RUNNER UP: Avalon Bottom Loading Water Cooler Water Dispenser
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Primo Top Loading Water Cooler
- BEST TOUCHLESS: Avalon A6 Touchless Water Cooler Dispenser
- BEST COUNTERTOP: Avalon Premium Countertop Water Cooler Dispenser
- ALSO CONSIDER: Avalon A5 Bottleless Water Cooler Dispenser
Types of Water Coolers
There are two main types of water coolers: point-of-use and bottled. Point-of-use water coolers connect directly to a building’s water supply and dispense tap water, which is often filtered by the cooler. Bottled water coolers dispense from a large water jug, which is either top loading or bottom loading.
Point of Use
Point-of-use water coolers connect directly to the municipal water supply. They dispense tap water and thus do not require a water bottle, which is why they are sometimes referred to as “bottleless” water coolers. Many point-of-use water coolers have a filtration mechanism to remove substances or improve the taste of water. The main advantage of this type of water cooler is that it has access to a continuous supply of water (barring any issues with the main water line, of course). These coolers can be wall-mounted or freestanding, upright units.
A point-of-use water cooler needs access to the building’s main water line. These coolers are often more expensive than bottled water coolers. Some require professional installation, which is an extra cost to consider. Although they may be pricier to buy and install, bottleless water coolers can save money in the long run because they don’t require regular deliveries of bottled water refills. A point-of-use water cooler’s convenience is its major selling point—users get a constant supply of water without lugging and replacing heavy water jugs.
Bottom-loading water coolers get their water supply from a water bottle. The water bottle mounts in the bottom half of the cooler, in a covered compartment. The bottom-loading design makes unloading and loading bottles much easier. Rather than having to pick up and flip over a heavy bottle (as is the case with top-loading coolers), simply shimmy the water jug into the compartment and connect it to the pump.
Because bottom-loading coolers use bottled water, they can dispense other types of water—like mineral, distilled, and spring waters—in addition to tap water.
Bottom-loading water coolers can be more expensive than top-loading options, but the added expense might be worth it if it means not having to heave and flip heavy water bottles over on a regular basis. The other nice thing about bottom-loading water coolers is they’re more aesthetically pleasing than top-loading coolers, because the plastic refill jug is hidden from view in the lower compartment. For the same reason, consider a bottom-loading cooler that has a water level notifier that will let you know when the water supply is almost depleted.
Top-loading water coolers are a popular option because they’re so affordable. As their name suggests, water bottles are inserted spout-down into the top of the water cooler. Because the cooler’s water comes from a jug, can also dispense water distilled, mineral, and spring water.
A top-loading water cooler’s biggest drawback is unloading and loading the water bottle, which can be a cumbersome process for some. Though some people may not like looking at a top-loading water cooler’s exposed jug, the jug’s water level is at least easy to monitor.
A countertop water cooler is a miniature version of a standard water cooler that’s small enough to fit on a countertop. Like standard water coolers, countertop units can be point-of use models, or source their water from bottles.
Countertop water coolers are portable, and ideal for kitchen counters, break rooms, office waiting rooms, and other locations with limited floor space. However, they can take up a good deal of counter space, which may be an issue if your tabletop real estate is limited.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Water Cooler
In addition to the type of water cooler, there are several other features to consider when choosing a water cooler. The best water cooler for your needs should be easy to use, easy to clean, and dispense water at your preferred temperature, whether cold or hot. The best coolers should also look nice, and be the right size for your needs. Here are some features to consider when choosing a water cooler.
Point-of-use water coolers do not have a capacity limit—as long as water is flowing, these coolers will dispense it.
Capacity is a factor to consider with bottled water coolers. Most of these coolers accommodate jugs that hold 2 to 5 gallons of water; 3-gallon and 5-gallon bottles are the most common sizes.
As you think about the right water cooler capacity for your needs, consider how often you’ll use a water cooler. If the cooler will get a lot of use, get one with a larger capacity so it doesn’t run low too quickly. If the cooler will be used less frequently, get one that accommodates smaller bottles. It’s best to avoid letting water sit for long because stagnant water is a breeding ground for bacteria.
The amount of energy a water cooler uses depends on the model. Water coolers with on-demand cooling or heating tend to use less energy than those with cold or hot water storage tanks. Coolers with storage usually use more standby energy to maintain the tank’s water temperature.
Energy Star-certified water tanks are the most energy-efficient options. On average, an Energy Star-certified water cooler uses 30 percent less energy than one without that designation, which will save you energy—and lower your electric bill—over the long term.
Some water coolers are equipped with filtering systems, which can remove contaminants and improve the taste of the water. These coolers filter water via ion exchange, reverse osmosis, or activated carbon filters. Don’t forget that these systems’ filters will need to be replaced every so often, which is another expense to factor in when choosing a water cooler.
Water filtration is a common feature on point-of-use filters because these coolers dispense municipal tap water. Filtration is less of a concern with bottled water coolers because most water bottles contain filtered water.
Water Temperature Settings
Most coolers, whether bottled or point-of-use coolers, can dispense cold water. Other units can also provide cool, room temperature, and/or piping hot water at the push of a button. Most cooler manufacturers will specify their products’ peak temperatures, and others may have adjustable temperature settings.
A water cooler that dispenses both cold and hot water is a wise purchase. Having hot water on demand is handy for those who regularly consume tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and instant foods, or entertain guests or clients who do. If you’re considering a cooler with a hot water spigot, look for a unit equipped with a safety lock that prevents accidental use of the hot water tap.
Water coolers can be simple and straightforward but more often than not, they boast at least a few bells and whistles. One important feature to look for is safety locks. Child safety locks can prevent little ones from playing with water spouts and wasting water. If you’re in the market for a cooler that dispenses hot water, a hot-water safety lock that prevents accidental burns is essential.
Other useful features found on some water-cooler models are night lights, empty bottle alerts, and leak-detection alarms. For busy homes or offices, water coolers that are self-cleaning may be worth the extra cost. Refrigerated compartments, coffee dispensers, and carbonation options are other convenient features to consider.
The amount of noise a water cooler makes is another factor to consider. They will all generate some level of noise because their electrical elements need to cool or heat the water. How important noise level is depends on where the cooler will be situated in the home or office. Noise level might be low on the list of concerns if the cooler will be in an office break room or in a home’s garage. In high-traffic living areas or near desks in the workplace, a quieter water cooler is ideal.
Ease of Use
A good water cooler should be easy to use. Some units have buttons or spigots to activate pouring, while others are touchless. A cooler with enough area below the spout to fill water pitchers and reusable water bottles are especially useful in public spaces, like restaurants and gyms.
Whether a cooler is easy to install is another important consideration, and one that might involve an extra expense on the owner’s part. Bottled water coolers are usually easier to install than point-of-use units, which usually require professional plumbing. Those shopping for bottled water coolers should bear in mind that bottom-loading units are much easier to load.
Water coolers need occasional cleaning to prevent buildup of mineral deposits, and germs from thriving. Proper cleaning maintains the quality and taste of the water. Though it takes just a little time, elbow grease, and some vinegar or bleach to clean most coolers, not everyone will want the bother. In that case, self-cleaning water coolers may be a worthy investment.
Our Top Picks
A water cooler is a convenient appliance to have at home or in the office, perfect for on-demand glasses of ice-cold glass of water and water for hot mugs of tea. Our top picks are easy to use and provide instant access to cold or hot potable water.
With a bottom-loading design and a self-cleaning function, this Brio water cooler is as appropriate for home as it is for the workplace. It dispenses cold, room temperature, and hot water, and has a modern, stainless-steel housing that complements stainless kitchen appliances. The hot-water dispenser is outfitted with a child safety lock to protect kids from accidental hot-water burns.
Another point in this cooler’s favor is its convenient ozone self-cleaning feature, which runs a disinfectant cleaning cycle at the press of a button.
This cooler accommodates 3- or 5-gallon water bottles and is Energy Star approved. For even more energy savings, the back panel has individual switches to control the hot water, cold water, and night light feature. To save energy, just switch off the features that aren’t being used. Though the bottle is hidden in the cooler’s lower cabinet, a digital display will signal when the water bottle is almost empty and needs to be replaced.
This tri-temperature water cooler from Avalon features on-off switches on each temperature toggle to conserve energy if the machine is not heating or cooling water. Even at full capacity, though, this unit is Energy Star approved. This cooler dispenses cold, room temperature, and hot water, and has a child safety lock on the hot water button. Its removable drip tray makes this cooler easy to keep clean.
This water cooler’s convenient bottom-loading design makes it easy to load standard 3- or 5-gallon jugs. When the container is running low, the empty-bottle indicator light will illuminate. It also has a built-in nightlight, which comes in handy when dispensing middle-of-the-night glasses of water.
This classic top-loading water cooler from Primo is an affordable pick that’ll check off boxes on many desirable cooler features. Its setup is quick and easy—just install the drip tray and anti-tipping bracket, invert and install the water bottle, and it’s ready to go. This cooler dispenses ice cold, cool, and hot water, and the hot water button has a child safety lock.
This unit is compatible with 3- and 5-gallon water bottles, and has a spill-proof bottle holder that prevents spills when loading a new bottle. Once loaded, the cooler’s Leak Guard prevents leaks if the bottle installed happens to be damaged.
This unit is Energy Star certified and UL listed, and its modern black and stainless steel aesthetic will have wide appeal. Overall, it offers a range of impressive features for an affordable price.
This bottom-loading water cooler from Avalon is a hygienic, no-touch option for those who will be sharing the cooler with other users. It features paddle style spouts for easy pouring. With light pressure on the paddles, this cooler will dispense water without turning spigots or pressing buttons. The hot water spout has a child-safety lock, however, it does need to be pressed to access hot water.
This cooler has two temperature options—ice cold or piping hot. When they’re not in use, either spout can be switched off on the back panel to conserve energy. The back panel also has a night light switch to turn the night light on or off. With these energy-saving features, it’s no surprise that this cooler is Energy Star approved.
The bottom-loading design fits 3- or 5-gallon bottles, and has an empty bottle indicator to notify when the bottle needs a refill.
Avalon’s countertop top-loading water cooler has a stylish, minimalist design. Despite its compact size—it’s just 12 inches by 12 inches by 19 inches—it uses standard 3- and 5-gallon water jugs. Despite its size it still features 7 inches of space under the spout to fit tall glasses and water bottles.
This Energy Star-approved cooler dispenses water at hot and cold temperatures. Like Avalon’s bottom-loading cooler, this one has easy-to-use, touchless paddle dispensers that pour water when a cup is pressed against the paddle. Its hot water dispenser has a child safety lock for safe use, and its removable drip tray makes cleanup easy.
This point-of-use water cooler from Avalon has a range of features that make it the ideal home water cooler: the tri-temperature cooler dispenses cold, room temperature, and hot water, and has a child safety lock on the hot water spigot. The machine’s dual-stage filtration system, with NSF (National Sanitation Foundation)-certified filters, gets rid of rust, dirt, sediment, chlorine, and lead for cleaner and better tasting water.
The cooler is easy to install, even as a DIY project. Once it’s in, cleaning and maintenance is a breeze because the A5 has a self-cleaning feature that uses ozone to prevent and break down bacteria and biofilms. It also has an indicator light that lets users know when it’s time to replace the filters (this has to be done every six months or so). Its simple stainless steel design fits in with most kitchens and home styles.
The Advantages of Owning the Best Water Cooler
The main benefit of having a water cooler is convenience. A water cooler can offer instant cold or hot water when tap water just doesn’t cut it—and saves users the trouble of adding ice cubes or boiling water. A water cooler is an ideal appliance for those who live in areas where tap water is contaminated or has an unpleasant taste. Coolers are also more environmentally friendly than single-use plastic water bottles. These appliances may have a higher upfront cost, but they are cheaper over the long term than buying single-use bottles.
A high-quality water cooler is a worthwhile appliance for the home or the workplace. Quality water coolers may include extra features like water level notifications, night lights, and safety locks to make them safer and easier to use. In the workplace, having a water cooler makes it easier for employees and clients to serve themselves water, but they’re just as useful at home. Having a water cooler at home means there’s no more need to boil water for tea or take up valuable fridge space with a water filtering pitcher. Some of the main benefits of having a water cooler include:
- Convenient, on-demand access to potable cold, room temperature, or hot water.
- Easy access for guests, employees, and clients to serve themselves water.
- Over the long term, water coolers are a cheaper and more eco-friendly alternative to single-use plastic bottles.
FAQs About Water Coolers
Once installed, a water cooler is easy to use and requires some simple maintenance like refilling and cleaning. Proper maintenance will keep a water cooler dispensing for years to come. Here are some frequently asked questions about choosing and maintaining a water cooler.
Q. How do I choose a water dispenser?
Consider choosing a water dispenser that is the right size and type (point-of-use or bottled), and has the water temperature options that suit your needs.
Q. Do water dispensers use a lot of electricity?
Electricity usage will depend on the model. Products that are Energy Star certified will help cut back on the electric bill.
Q. How long can water sit in a water cooler?
For fresh and clean water, it’s best to replace the water bottle every month or so.
Q. Do I have to clean my water cooler?
Yes, it is important to clean a water cooler according to the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent bacteria, dirt, and mineral buildup.
Q. How long does a water cooler last?
A water cooler can last many years with proper maintenance and cleaning.