The importance of clean and healthy water is a given. But what is the best way to ensure easy access to healthy drinking water? The most convenient way is a simple water cooler dispenser. Having easy access to drinkable water also encourages people to drink more. Where you wish to put your water dispenser, and whether you want more than just hot and cold water, will help you decide which is the best water cooler dispenser for your home or office.
The Difference Between a Water Dispenser and a Water Cooler
A water dispenser is simply any contraption that will provide you with water. A kitchen faucet is technically a water dispenser, as is a water filter pitcher. A simple dispenser provides water at room temperature without any need for connecting to a power source.
A water cooler on the other hand requires a connection to a power source. This will limit where you can feasibly put your water cooler. A water cooler dispenser has at least one internal tank for cooling water, and another for heating. These appliances are generally marketed as water cooler dispensers.
Types of Water Cooler Dispensers
- POU – Point of use
- Top loading
- Bottom loading
Point of Use (POU) Water Cooler Dispensers
These water dispensers require a direct connection to a water source as well as a nearby power connection. They cost a little more because they come with additional high spec features such as ozone injection or a UV light. The filters generally have to be changed every six months, and the cost per gallon is often cheaper than bottled water.
Best For: A kitchen or home that doesn’t have a filtration system such as a whole house water treatment system, or something like a refrigerator water filter. These are also a good choice if ordering and refilling bottled water is inconvenient for you.
Bottom Loading Water Cooler Dispensers
Bottom loading dispensers are convenient because no heavy lifting is required, and you simply shift the water bottle into the compartment. They have an additional pumping mechanism, so they cost more than top loading coolers. More expensive models also have high spec features such as self sanitizing ozone injection.
Best For: These are nice for a family home or people who can’t do heavy lifting. Because they dispense water at waist height, they are a good option for children compared to countertop dispensers. They give a more stylish look to both a home and an office.
Top Loading Water Cooler Dispensers
These are the most efficient and cheapest dispensers because they simply rely on the power and force of gravity, with no additional pump mechanism. The bottom of the dispenser often has a storage compartment, and more fancy models may even have a built-in ice maker. They generally tend not to have self sanitizing functions.
Best For: These are just as functional as bottom loading dispensers, except they are more affordable. The additional advantage is that they may have a storage compartment which is useful for keeping cups, or beverage extras if placed in a public area.
Countertop Water Cooler Dispensers
These are simply miniature versions of either top loading water coolers or point of source (POU) water cooler dispensers. The POU bottleless models come with inline water filters and they need to be near a point of use water source.
Best For: These are nice options for a small office, a small apartment, or a two person home. They are easily portable and can fit a mobile home.
Key Things to Look For in a Water Cooler Dispenser
- Leaks: Nobody wants a water cooler that leaks— so always check the frequency of leak reports from verified purchases at your online shopping port.
- Levers and buttons: These should work seamlessly and to be of relatively good quality. Buttons are better options for young children.
- Hot water safety lock: Quality models generally have these, and even if there aren’t young children around, it’s better to be on the safe side.
- Noise: All coolers emit some noise when cooling or heating between usage. Some machines have lower noise levels and for some people, or an office, this is important.
- Thermostat settings: Temperatures for hot and cold water are generally fixed within a limited range of variation—at around 47℉ cold / 180℉ hot— but some can go higher or lower. Switches at the back to turn the hot and cold functions on and off are standard.
If you want a machine with a self sanitizing function that uses ultraviolet light or ozone injection, these will cost you more and are generally only available on bottom loading or POU filter dispensers. This will keep water lines and spouts cleaner, but you still have to manually clean your tank at least every six months.
Other add-ons that make great selling points are: a night light, an empty bottle alert, a full water tray bob indicator, and adjustable legs.
Water Dispenser Filtration
Regardless of what water dispenser you get, it’s only as good as the water it dispensers. Point of source dispensers (bottleless) come with high grade filters, but for bottled water dispensers you have to research a high quality, trustworthy provider.
Water Dispensers and The Environment
For bottled water dispensers you need to make sure that water bottle materials are not harmful in any way. If you’re concerned about waste and the environmental impact, make sure to get an environmentally friendly distributor. Sometimes you may be able to refill your water jug at a self service point.
Reviews of The Best Water Dispenser Coolers in 2021
Our reviews of the best water cooler dispensers include three bottom loading dispensers, two top loading dispensers, and two POU water dispensers with a filter. Two of our recommendations are countertop coolers, and another has a single serve coffee maker.
Here are our picks for the top best water dispenser coolers:
- hOmeLabs 3 or 5 Gallon – Best Water Cooler Dispenser to Buy
- Avalon Self-Cleaning Dispenser – Runner Up Best Water Cooler Dispenser
- Avalon POU Dispenser – Best Filter Dispenser for The Home
- Avalon Premium – Best Countertop Water Cooler Dispenser
- Aquawell Water Dispenser – Best Top Loading Water Cooler For an Office
- Primo hTRiO Dispenser – Best With as Single Serve Coffee Brewer
- Kenmore Water Cooler – Best POU Filter Countertop Dispenser
1. hOmeLabs 3 or 5 Gallon – Best Water Cooler Dispenser to Buy
A well built and affordable machine that dispenses hot, cold, plus room temperature water. It has an empty bottle alert and a premium two year warranty.
- Well constructed
- Hot, cold and ambient water
- Hot water safety lock
- Fits a 3 or 5 gallon jug
- Water refill alert
- Energy Star and UL listing
- 2 year warranty
- Only one dispenser nozzle
- Sometimes a little noisy
- Bottle a tight fit
The best water cooler dispenser to buy is one that offers affordable value and key performance features, with the least amount of potential hassle. We carefully examined hundreds of user reports and summarized our findings so you can make the best choice for yourself as well. We compared the following three popular and affordable bottom loading water cooler dispensers:
|Leaks / Defective units (-)||★||★★★||★★✩|
|Bottle fit (+)||★★★★||★★★★★||★★★★★|
|Customer support (+)||★★★★||★★★★||★★★|
We chose hOmelabs because they have the best manufacturing quality, the best warranty, and key performance is good for the price. However, this machine is a little smaller than others so the bottle is a tight fit— which means some water brands might not be suitable depending on the bottle design.
Standard features and functions for this class of machine include: hot, cold and ambient water, 3 or 5 gallon bottle replacements, a hot water safety lock, an on/off switch for cold and hot water, a night light, Energy Star and UL listings.
A couple of things add some extra value for your money namely, a refill alert for when your water bottle runs low, and a two year warranty.
One key difference with this hOmelabs is it has just one water nozzle so you can’t pour more than one type of water at a time. For this price point, you are not going to get any self-sanitizing function—either ozone or a UV light— but it’s affordable and not a bad deal at all.
2. Avalon Self-Cleaning Dispenser – Runner Up Best Water Cooler Dispenser
A bottom loading, self-sanitizing water cooler dispenser which is comparatively quiet, and backed up by excellent customer service.
- Ozone injection
- BPA free
- Hot water safety lock
- Empty bottle indicator
- Energy Star, UL and NSF 372
- Excellent customer support
- Ozone self-cleaning not automatic
- Defective units could be fewer
If you’re looking for a higher grade of machine, then a machine with a self sanitizing function and other additional safeguards is the way to go. We took three of the most popular contending models and compared key features for this category:
|Leaks / Defective units (-)||★★✩||★★||★★★|
|Sanitary features (+)||★★||★★★||★★★|
|Additional features (+)||★★★||★★★||★★★|
|Customer service (+)||★★★★||★★||★★★|
|8 ½||7||5 ½|
Although Avalon had slightly more reports of defective units, they have the best customer service and their machines are relatively quiet. Sanitary features include ozone injection and BPA free plastic parts. Brio has an additional bacteria resistant backsplash, and Whirlpool is the only machine that has automatic ozone injection and hidden faucets.
Typical features of the Avalon include a night or drip tray light, a hot water safety lock, and an empty bottle indicator. Avalon and Brio both have Energy Star ratings as well as UL for electrical safety, and NSF 372 for lead free manufacturing contamination. In contrast, Whirlpool is not NSF certified.
The hot water tank holds 1.16 liters so it’s good for 4 hot drinks back to back, and the temperature is around 185 ℉. The cold water tank holds 3.6 liters and the low temperature is 47 ℉. The self-cleaning function has to be run manually at least once a week, and afterwards you cannot dispenser water for 90 minutes.
3. Avalon Self Cleaning Water Cooler – Best Filter Dispenser for The Home
All your hot and cold water needs taken care of for up to six months at a time with dual level filtration.
- $0.06 per gallon of water
- Self sanitizing ozone injection
- Full installation kit
- NSF 42 and 53 filtration
- Leak detector and automatic switch off
- Night light and child lock
- Energy Star and UL listed
- Filtration not commercial grade
Filtered water comes at a cost which varies a lot depending on the level of filtration, or the deal you can get for bottled water. On the other hand, with a bottleless water dispenser with a filter you can be more certain about the purity of your water, and it may often cost you less . The filters only need to be changed every six months or 2 500 gallons, and one set of Avalon filters works out to about $0.06 per gallon of water.
This dispenser has a dual tank system where the hot water tank holds 1.16 liters of water, and the cold tank some 3.6. Liters. It takes 15 min for the hot water to reach the maximum temperature of 185℉, and one hour for water to cool to 47℉.
The self-sanitizing ozone injection system will clear out bacteria in your water lines and dispenser nozzles, but you still need to clean the cold water tank at least every 6 months.
Filter and Installation
These handy filters are easier to install than your average under the sink filters because you simply mount them in the dispenser brackets, with a little piping work needed.
The installation package comes with a three way adapter, so you can easily run an additional water line from under your sink (not from the water filter) to a refrigerator ice maker, or coffee machine. In addition, there’s also a filter change indicator, and a leak detector with an automatic switch off function.
The filters are certified NSF 42 which reduces odors, discoloration and chlorine, but additional NSF 53 and Avalon’s carbon block technology can further reduce up to 50 contaminant such as lead, cryptosporidium parasites, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), and chromium.
4. Avalon Premium – Best Countertop Water Cooler Dispenser
A stylish, hot and cold water, countertop dispenser that is easy to carry and can hold a three or a five gallon water jug.
- 3 or 5 gallon jugs
- Easy carry handles
- Can dispense 4 mugs of hot water
- Hot water safety lock
- 2 color choices
- Energy Star and UL listed
- No room temperature setting
- Not trave flask friendly
This compact Avalon measures some 12 by 12 inches and 19 inches high, so it can sit easily on a kitchen table top, or any place suitable for a coffee or drinks station. It can’t go beneath a counter overhang, but it takes a three or five gallon bottle, so you can vary the extra height accordingly. The clearance height for the dispenser is 7 inches so it’s not a good fit for a travel flask.
It’s just a basic hot (185℉) and cold (47℉) water dispenser, but if you switch off the heater or cooler at the back, you can choose to have room temperature water instead of either hot or cold. Additionally, it has a hot water lock, is UL certified and also has an Energy Star rating.
The hot tank can hold up to 1 liter of water, which is enough for three to four mugs of coffee in the morning. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to heat up and there’s a hot water safety lock on the paddle. Cold water takes about an hour to get down to temperature and the tank holds 3 liters.
5. Aquawell Water Dispenser – Best Top Loading For an Office
Great looking in any public or private space with ample storage space for cups, instant coffee, sachets, milk powder, sugar and snacks.
- 3 or 5 gallon jugs
- Large storage compartment
- Storage self sanitizing with ozone
- Hot water over 185 ℉
- Hot and cold off switches
- Hot water safety lock
- 24 hour customer response
- No room temp. water
- Not Energy Star rated
This is an affordable water cooler for an office, reception area or a home— and the eye catching color combination fits in well almost anywhere. The compartment can easily store enough extras for teas and coffee, and this feature also saves inconvenient trips to the kitchen if you’re working from home.
The lower compartment is not a cooler box and only accepts room temperature items, but it has a self sanitizing function that uses ozone. Unfortunately, the water spouts are not self sanitizing, so you have to clean them manually.
The hot water in this dispenser reaches between 185 ℉ and 203 ℉, so it’s also hot enough for instant noodles. You can switch off the water heating function during low periods of use, and the paddle has a safety lock.
Although this cooler has FDA approval and ELT listing for electrical safety, it doesn’t have any Energy Star rating. Aquawell promises customer support responses within 24 hours.
6. Primo hTRiO Dispenser – Best With as Single Serve Coffee Brewer
Add a bit of luxury to your home or business with a water dispenser that doubles up as a single serve K-cup coffee maker. Three pod sizes or take advantage of the reusable filter.
- K-cups and compatible coffee pods
- 6, 8 and 10 oz pods
- Reusable filter
- Fast flow rate
- Safety lock
- Two color choices
- Energy Star and UL listed
- Wait between pulling coffee shots
- No room temp. water
This bottom loading dispenser is one of the few reasonably priced dispensers that can do K-cups or compatible coffee pods (not Nespresso pods). The slot can take six, eight or ten ounce pods, so you can control the brew strength, and the top tray holds twenty pods. Like most other K-cup makers or Keurigs, you can also use a disposable filter if you want to save on the waste.
One thing worth pointing out is that you have to wait about three or so minutes after pulling two shots— so it’s not so great for back to back cups. Apart from making coffee, this machine will dispense hot and cold water. On the other hand, there’s no option for room temperature water.
People by and large have a positive experience with this dispenser, and it’s also Energy Star rated with a UL listing for electrical safety. It is available in two colors: this more popular black color, and one in black and stainless steel.
7. Kenmore Water Optimizer – Best POU Filter Countertop
A high quality three-in-one water dispensing hub which can supply filtered water to two additional appliances such as a coffee machine and a refrigerator.
- 3 in 1 water hub
- Refrigerator and coffee machine connection
- 3 dispensing temperatures
- Water flow and filtration optimizer
- Eco saver light sensor
- UV sterilizer & dispenser light
- Leak detector
- 9 inches below water spout
- Installation little complex
Compared to other POU bottleless dispensers, his Kenmore is worth the extra cost. It dispensers hot, cold and room temperature water, on top of taking care of filtered water for two additional appliances. This is a good choice if you have, or are thinking of getting, a bottom freezer refrigerator with an ice maker, but no built-in filtration or any refrigerator that has a bypass filter plug.
Key Features of The Kenmore Water Optimizer
Water optimization: In addition to the internal, easy snap-in filter, you can attach another filter at the back. There are various grades of filters you can buy for this machine, but a sediment and chemical filter is recommended for the external option. The package comes with a UF membrane carbon block filter, and an externalsediment filter. Further water optimization functions include a non-stop dispensing mode, a quick 10 second fill mode, and a hands free 90 second fill mode.
Eco saving: This operates with a light sensor which detects when the machine is least likely to be used and powers down the heating function. It also has the usual independent switches for hot and cold water operation, and is Energy Star certified.
Health and safety: These features include a UV sterilizing light and an alert when to change your water filters. There’s also a dispenser light with three modes: on, off or dispense only. For peace of mind, there’s a leak detector and three water valve switches: one at source, and one for each additional appliance connection.
On the flip side, this machine does require some decent handyman skills to install, or you may need to get professional installation. It does, however, come with a complete installation kit, and their manuals, including the installation manual, are very well done and clearly laid out.
The only complaint about this machine was that a number of people never got all the installation parts mentioned in the manual— so check these before you do anything else. Also, remember to flush your filters properly before installing them, and run a couple of gallons through the machine afterwards as well.
Comparison Table for The Best Water Cooler Dispensers in 2021
|hOmelabs||Bottom loading||Hot-Cold-Ambient||Safety lock, Empty bottle alert|
|Avalon||Bottom loading||Hot-Cold-Ambient||Ozone injection, BPA free|
|Avalon||POU filter line||Hot-Cold-Ambient||Ozone injection, NSF 42 & 53, leak detector|
|Avalon||Countertop||Hot-Cold||Safety lock, Carry handles|
|Aquawell||Top loading||Hot-Cold||Cabinet with ozone injection|
|Primo||Bottom loading||Hot-Cold||6,8,10 oz pods, reusable pod|
|Kenmore||Countertop POU||Hot-Cold-Ambient||Water flow optimizer, UV light, Eco saver, Multi filtration|
The cheapest water cooler dispenser is a simple top loading dispenser, and one that dispensers just hot and cold water. Price points increase if you want ambient water, and the best water cooler dispensers have additional features such as self-sanitizing ozone injection, a UV light, a night light, an empty bottle alert or even POU inline water filters. If you have anything to add, or wish to ask a question, please use the comment feature below. We are always here for you.