The Costway 5-gallon water cooler dispenser is a low-cost choice for a top-loading machine. There are several things we really like about the Costway, but it’s not without its flaws and disappointing for the cheap corners it cuts.
In our hands-on testing, the Costway proved a worthy machine for the price, especially for its hot water temperature and capacity. The cold water performance was also good enough for a low-capacity or personal water cooler dispenser.
On the other hand, the flow rate is rather slow, but more to the point are design and quality shortcuts. One of these is with the drip tray, the other the rear drainage port. However, we like how the faucets detach for thorough cleaning, its lightweight design, and the quality of workmanship shown on body joinings.
The Costway is one of our best recommendations for a budget-priced water cooler dispenser despite its flaws. Although the cold water test score was not that great, it is scored to a 202 fl. oz. (6 L) or 20 person benchmark. For low capacity needs or a personal water cooler dispenser, the cold water performance is acceptable.
Things We Like
- Hot water temperature
- Detachable faucets
- Light weight
Things We Don’t Like
- Slow flow rate
- Loose drip tray
- Shoddy drainage plug
- Poor build quality
Costway makes a wide range of large and small appliances, outdoor and indoor furnishings, bath products, pet products, and more. Apart from this small freestanding water cooler dispenser, they also have a countertop model with a built-in ice maker.
Where to Buy? Price at publication $112.68
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Considering its smaller design, and budget features, the performance of the Costway was quite reasonable. The hot water temperature was about as high as it gets, while heating times and hot water capacity were good averages. The cold water capacity and performance were good enough for a small personal water cooler dispenser. The only performance disappointment was the rather slow flow rate.
7.2Hot Water Test
Initially, the Costway made a promising start. It recorded the highest consistent hot water temperature, and the output capacity was good for a small-sized machine. However, the flow rate was poor and dispensing hot water wasn’t always a trouble-free experience due to the poor design of the safety lever.
Heating Time a Good Average (8 / 35%)
The Costway took 2 min 48 sec to heat 250 ml of water. This was by no means the fastest heating machine, but it was a consistently good average. Considering the high temperature and good output capacity, Costway does have its merits.
Temperature One of the Highest (9.75 / 45%)
Most top-performing water cooler dispensers have a consistently high temperature of around 198℉. The safest uppermost temperature for the enclosed tank system of a water cooler dispenser is around 200℉. The Costway, similar to the Avalon A4, pushed limits a little with 199℉ (92.8℃) on every test. For this, we slightly penalized the Costway for being just over the preferred benchmark of 198 ℉ (92.2℃).
Serving Capacity Respectable
For our hot water test, we measure the quantity of water produced until the temperature drops by 3℃. Many machines have a slight fluctuation in the temperature until the 3℃ drop point.
Despite the slow flow rate, the Costway output capacity was pretty good. It was better than top-loading water cooler dispensers such as the Avalon A1 and the Frigidaire EFWC519.
The single draw capacity was 19 fl. oz. (560 ml) which is enough for two 8 fl. oz. (240 ml) cups back-to-back. Reheating a full tank of water took around five and a half minutes on average. You can expect the machine to produce around 172 fl. oz. (5 L) of piping hot water every hour.
Flow Rate Annoyingly Slow (0 / 20%)
Considering the low cost of the machine, perhaps it should be no surprise the flow rate of the Costway was only 15 ml/sec (0.5 fl. oz.). That was around half the rate or less compared to many other machines.
On our scoring scale, the flow rate was awarded zero points since we subtract 0.5 points for every second above or below the benchmark of 34 ml/sec.
The flow rate was, therefore, the only disappointment in the hot water test. However, there were still a number of other design quality issues that we detail further below.
5.0Cold Water Test
This Costway may disappoint with shortcuts on design detail and a slow flow rate. However, it otherwise performed reasonably well in our cold water test. It can dispense 8.5 fl. oz. of water every 7 minutes at a stable temperature of 52‒54 ℉. That’s 91.3 fl. oz. (2.7 L/hr) or enough water for nine people throughout the day.
The machine itself is very light and can easily be lifted or moved around. It’s also quite small for a freestanding water cooler dispenser. For an overall medium capacity machine, we thought the Costway to be a reasonable budget choice.
The Costway is a neat looking water cooler dispenser. Its convenient size also fits a niche between the typical freestanding dispenser and the small countertop variety. It’s also considerably light weight and easy to move around or transport.
Although a cheaper kind of light plastic, the body parts are well joined together. We also liked the design of the cabinet with a nice magnetic lock.
However, a number of key parts detract from otherwise acceptable quality for the price. Specifically, this is the drip tray, the drainage plug, the hot water safety mechanism, and to a lesser extent the water baffle.
In the Box
- Machine unit
- Detachable drip tray
- User manual & pamphlets
The Costway arrived in a bit of a worn and well-handled box. Perhaps the internal packaging could have been better. The machine did have a slow leak, but that may or may not have been a result of rough shipping, but rather quality control. As with any refrigeration unit, always leave your machine to stand upright overnight before setting it up or plugging it in.
The Costway is an all-plastic, lightweight, and very affordable water cooler dispenser. Although a freestanding water cooler dispenser, it’s smaller than most and easy to pick up and carry.
Although made from a flexible plastic, the body joinings are good and there are no sharp parts. There are, however, key parts of the machine that are rather poor quality.
One is the drip tray, another the rear drainage plug, and the water baffle. The fact that our test machine had a leak also raised questions about adequate quality control as well as proper shipping and packing.
6.0Panel & Indicators
The panel space is very limited, but well-utilized. The long horizontal indicators fit the design of the machine and are well laid out. We did find, however, that the indicators tend to be slow—especially with hot water. Once the temperature has dropped by 3℃, it’s still a few more seconds before the light comes on. The lights are also a little difficult to see when operating and in the light.
6.0Water Inlet Controls
The water needle of the water guard is rounded and not pointed as is often the case. This means that the bottle doesn't slip on so easily or requires a little force to get the needle through.
The water guard removes very easily, but it’s not the most secure fit. Additionally, the water baffle is a low-quality generic product and it takes some fiddling around to get it into place after cleaning the tank.
For a less expensive design, protruding faucets with a tap-type lever are quite common. Similar to the Frigidaire EFWC519, we like that both taps and nozzles detach for easier cleaning. Their quality is comparable to the body of the machine, but we were not so enthused with the design of the hot water safety clip.
The drip tray is a light flimsy plastic. Additionally, it fits poorly and can very easily be knocked out. The pure white plastic also makes the water visible, but at the same time unsightly. The drip, even for a budget machine, is overall very poorly designed.
The two switches are color-coded green for the cold tank and red for the hot. The additional white script is easy to read and you can easily reach over the top of the machine to turn the switches on or off.
Door and Cabinet
Sometimes top-loading water cooler dispensers have a small cabinet. These are useful for storing cups, sugar, tea bags, or instant coffee. The cabinet is a decent space for the size of the machine and we liked the pocket handle and magnetic lock. The compartment is not refrigerated.
Cord and Plug
The length of the cord is much the same as larger freestanding water cooler dispensers, except that it comes out the bottom right about 2.7 inches from the ground. This gives a little more distance and flexibility in positioning the machine—especially if the wall socket is closer to the ground as well.
6.0Ease of Use
The only performance score to affect ease of use was the flow rate. The flow rate was rather slow but not entirely unexpected for the faucet-type dispensing levers and the budget cost of the machine.
On the downside, the hot water safety mechanism was sometimes tricky to use. A major flaw in design was the drip tray which had little to no secure attachment. We did appreciate, however, how easily the faucets detached for periodic deep cleaning.
The front panel was not prone to fingerprinting, but the drainage plug is poor quality and affected the ease of cleaning. Likewise, the water baffle was a poor generic design and was frustrating to replace after cleaning.
The first thing that detracted from easy and comfortable water dispensing was the slow flow rate. The second was the poor design of the hot water faucet which often didn’t work so well.
The cold water dispenser, however, proved quite easy to operate and you can either push it down or lift it up.
In addition, we would not recommend placing any cups on the drip tray, especially for hot water. The tray is poor quality and can easily fall out. Understandably, faucet and lever-type machines are designed more for cup-in-hand dispensing. However, the drip tray is still a fundamental flaw in both design and quality.
5.5Hot Water Safety
The hot water safety mechanism is a kind of clip faucet. You have to press the two parts together and push them down. Unlike the cold water faucet, if you lift it up it won’t dispense. Also, if you adjust the position while dispensing the safety clip locks again. Other times the clips don’t quite connect on the first try. Despite these incidents, the simplistic design does serve its purpose.
7.5Bottle / Filter Changing
Changing the water bottle on the Costway requires a bit of heavy lifting more than anything else. Because the machine is smaller than most other freestanding models, it's not such a chore to lift the bottle considering the lower height.
Unlike many other top-loading dispensers, the water needle does not have a sharpened point, but is round. This does require a little more force and pressure to break open the bottle seal.
The all-plastic body of this machine is not prone to gathering fingerprints and it easily maintains a shiny and attractive look. It’s also easy to clean around the faucets and spouts.
The faucets detach and can be thoroughly cleaned during periodic descaling. Of course, you shouldn’t attempt to take them apart until all water has first been drained from the tanks, and the remainder through the spouts.
Other aspects of periodic descaling were a bit of frustration. The water baffle, for one, doesn’t come out so easily and is tricky to get back into place.
Furthermore, the drainage plug is poorly designed with no valve stopper. As soon as it is loosened, water starts coming out and the cap remains attached to a plastic tether. You have to always hold it away from the water flow and it’s easy to mess water around.
Lastly, the manual is in poorly translated English using a font not suited for print. Instructions on periodic descaling and cleaning are also minimal.
About your guide
Roger Shitaki is a writer, author, and editor. His niches are household appliances, health & wellness, and travel. He’s a freelance contributor to a Tokyo lifestyle website and a leading ophthalmology magazine in Asia.
Lap is Head of the Research, Testing, and Review Team (RTR Team) at HealthyKitchen101.com, where he directs and supervises the testing of kitchen gadgets and appliances.