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Shopping Guide for the Best Water Coolers

We all know that getting plenty of water is good for us, but it's easy to forget to drink regularly throughout the day.

You might think of a water cooler as an item you’d see at your workplace or doctor’s office. The truth is, home-based water coolers are growing in popularity. It’s not uncommon for consumers to sip on water from a cooler they’ve stationed in their kitchen or garage.

The main obstacle between you and your new water cooler is how to find the right one. But at BestReviews, we're here to help.

Through a combination of product research and data analysis, we identified the market’s top water coolers and reviewed them thoroughly.

As you peruse our product recommendation matrix, above, you can rest assured that we never accept “free” manufacturer samples. We want our reviews to maintain their integrity and unbiased nature.

Owning your own water cooler makes drinking H2O more convenient than ever.

If you're ready to buy a water cooler, please check out our favorite products in the matrix.

If you’d like to learn more about water coolers and how to select the perfect model for your needs, please continue reading.

Water Cooler Types

You’ll find three major water cooler types on the market: point-of-use coolers, top-load coolers, and bottom-load coolers.

Below, we examine the pros and cons of each type.

Water cooler types

Point-of-Use Water Coolers

Point-of-use water coolers plumb directly into your home’s water supply. These coolers are sold as either wall-mounted or upright units.

Pros:

  • They're cheaper in the long run, as you don't have to pay for bottled water.

  • Many point-of-use coolers include a built-in filtration system.

  • Because the unit connects to your home’s water supply, you needn’t worry about running out of water.

Cons:

  • They generally need to be plumbed in by a professional, which adds to the cost.

  • While the unit may filter the water, it's still tap water rather than mineral or spring water.

  • Because it’s attached to your water supply, the unit must stay put once installed.
EXPERT TIP

Point-of-use coolers can save money, as they use water from your home supply. Other types of coolers require bottle replacements/refills at an additional expense.


Staff  | BestReviews
Water cooler types

Top-Load Water Coolers

Top-load water coolers exude the “classic” look you probably think of when you picture a water cooler. A bottle sits upside down on top of the unit.

Pros:

  • These tend to be the most affordable type of water cooler.

  • You can use spring or mineral water in this type of cooler, which is ideal if you have poor-quality water in your area.

  • Some freestanding models have “extra” features (like a small refrigerator) at the bottom.

Cons:

  • Some people don't like the look of an appliance with a water bottle on top.

  • Mounting the water bottle can be difficult, and it requires a fair amount of upper body strength.
DID YOU KNOW?

Some people find it too difficult to hoist a refill bottle onto a top-load cooler. The task requires coordination and a fair amount of upper body strength.

Water cooler types

Bottom-Load Water Coolers

Like top-load coolers, a bottom-load cooler needs a bottle from which to draw its water. But in this case, it’s stored beneath the tap rather than atop the unit. The bottle is often tucked away behind a door in the bottom of the unit.

Pros:

  • You can use spring or mineral water, which some people prefer over tap water.

  • Loading refill bottles is fairly easy, as the containers needn’t be lifted very high.

  • This type of cooler can easily be moved around the house if you decide to rearrange things.

Cons:

  • These models often cost more than their top-load counterparts.
EXPERT TIP

While they’re sold at a premium, it's much easier to fit bottles into a bottom-load water cooler than a top-load water cooler — even if you're not very strong.


Staff  | BestReviews

Freestanding vs. Wall-Mounted

The majority of water coolers are freestanding, upright units. However, some point-of-use varieties can be wall-mounted in the style of a water fountain.

Although it’s a bit unusual to see a fountain-style cooler in a residence, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get one if the idea appeals to you.

In fact, having this type of apparatus in your home could cut back on your dirty dishes, since you and your family wouldn't be using glasses for drinking water.

If space is an issue, consider a smaller “tabletop” water cooler. These are the perfect size for the average kitchen counter.

Features

Features

Water Temperature

Water coolers obviously produce cool — even cold — water. But some also offer “room temperature” and “hot” water options.

Models that produce hot water should heat the liquid enough to make a cup of tea or instant coffee.

If you want a water cooler with a “hot water” feature but you’re worried about child safety, consider a model with a child lock.

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BestReviews
Features

Self-Cleaning Technology

Stagnant water breeds bacteria, so you certainly wouldn’t want your drinking water sitting around in a bottle for too long. This issue is especially pertinent for one- and two-person households where it takes a while to consume an entire water bottle.

Fortunately, some manufacturers (like Glacial Maximum) make coolers with self-cleaning technology. This kills the majority of the bacteria in the water and also helps keep the water lines clean.

DID YOU KNOW?

It's important to keep your water cooler clean to avoid the spread of bacteria and viruses.

Features

Filtration System

If your cooler takes bottles of spring or mineral water, you probably won’t worry about filtering your H2O. But if you have a point-of-use system that connects to your home’s water supply, you’ll be using water straight from the tap.

And while tap water in most parts of the U.S. is safe to drink, it still contains trace amounts of substances that some people might wish to avoid.

As such, you'd be best off with a water cooler that includes a built-in filter. You can find models with built-in filters from reputable manufacturers like Aquverse®.

EXPERT TIP

If you want a point-of-use water cooler, consider a model that comes with its own filtration system.


Staff  | BestReviews
Features

Ease of Installation

If you don't want to hire a professional to install your water cooler, your best bet would probably be a freestanding model rather than a point-of-use variety.

That said, some point-of-use water cooler manufacturers state that their products are simple to install, requiring only basic tools.

Even so, if you don't know your monkey wrench from your Phillips head, you're probably best off enlisting a pro to do the job.

DID YOU KNOW?

Since point-of-use water coolers attach to your home’s main water supply, you may wish to call upon someone with plumbing experience to install one in your home.

Features

Capacity

Most top- and bottom-load varieties are compatible with standard-sized plastic or glass cooler bottles of two, three, four, and five gallons.

However, if you're unsure, check the manufacturer's specifications before making a purchase.

Of course, you needn’t worry about capacity if you have a point-of-use system. Point-of-use coolers have a practically unlimited capacity, as they're plumbed into your home.

Many water coolers are compatible with glass bottles, which is good news for people who prefer not to use too much plastic or who want to avoid BPA.

Staff
BestReviews

Price

Quality water coolers aren't exactly bargain basement items. That said, they shouldn't break your bank account, either.

  • If you don't mind having a basic top-load model without too many extra features, you should be able to pick one up for around $150.

  • However, for a point-of-use cooler of high quality, you're looking at $350 to $400.

  • If you want a bottom-load water cooler from a name brand you know and trust, like Whirlpool, you're likely to pay around $250 to $300.

The “watercooler effect” refers to situations in which employees in a workplace gather and socialize, often for the sake of gossiping or creating rumors, around the community water cooler.

FAQ

Q. How do I keep my water cooler clean and sanitary?

A. It's important to keep your water cooler clean to help prevent the buildup of bacteria. Make sure you regularly clean any nozzles and buttons with food-safe antibacterial cleaner. You should also clean the cold reservoir and water lines (as per manufacturer's instructions) at least once a month.

Q. Should I get a full-sized water cooler or a tabletop model?

A. This really depends on how many people live in your home, how often you'll be using the water cooler, and how much space you have.

If you don't have the space for a larger model, a tabletop water cooler is an excellent compromise. Likewise, if there are only one or two of you in your home, or everybody spends most of the day at work or school, a larger variety might be overkill.

Q. Should I get a water cooler that also dispenses hot water?

A. Many quality water coolers also produce hot water as standard, but there's no reason to go out of your way to buy a water cooler with a “hot” option if you don't think you'll use it often.

That said, a readily available supply of hot water is great for whipping up hot drinks, instant oatmeal, soup cups, and more. So, once you get it, you might find that you use it more than you imagined you would.

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