Hot and cold water dispensers, otherwise known as water cooler dispensers are incredibly versatile and useful appliances to have.
A while back they were a preserve of offices and schools alone. These days though they are finding their way in many homes as more and more people realize the convenience and pleasure that comes with owning a personal water cooler dispenser.
This write-up is all about hot and cold water dispensers – how they actually work and the different types available in the market.
We will also layout our list of the best hot and cold water dispensers so that you have a clear idea of what to expect if you are looking to purchase your very own unit. Have a look at them below.
What is a Hot and Cold Water Dispenser (Water Cooler Dispenser)?
A hot and cold water dispenser as the name suggests is an appliance that’s capable of heating and cooling water, and dispense it whenever you need it. There are also models with an additional option to dispense water at room temperature while some include ice makers.
What are the functions?
Overall, a water cooler dispenser can perform three main functions which are dispensing hot water, normal water at room temperature, and chilled water.
Once the dispenser is hooked to the water source, a certain amount of water is fed into the reservoir/tank inside it where it’s stored awaiting to be cooled or heated prior to dispensing.
Hot Water Function
To deliver hot water, a heating element is placed inside an alternate hot water reservoir where it heats the water inside it to near boiling point (201oF). The hot water is then held in the hot tank, ready for dispensation via the hot tap. You just release the hot water tap or press the hot water button on the dispenser and the heated water flows out right away.
Cooled Water Function
In this function, the cooling method involves the use of a refrigerant or through thermoelectricity. Most coolers use a refrigerant which is basically a cooling medium (fluid-like Freon) that’s capable of absorbing heat.
These coolers utilize a compressor that works with the refrigerant which is circulated in coils. The refrigerant is compressed as it passes through the compressor causing it to evaporate into a gas thereby raising its pressure and temperature.
The gaseous refrigerant is forced through a condenser that consists of narrow circuitous tubes, converting the gas into a high-pressure liquid. The liquid is then drained through a throttle valve to reduce its pressure.
From there, the low-pressure liquid enters the expansion chamber (evaporator) where it evaporates turning back into a gas. During this process, heat-exchanging occurs which is what leads to the cooling effect where the water within the reservoir is cooled and becomes readily available for dispensing.
For units that employ the thermoelectric cooling method, the chilling effect is achieved through the use of a thermoelectric device which acts as a heat pump.
The device works according to the Peltier effect where heat is transferred from one junction of the device to the other. As the heat is sucked to one end, cooling occurs on the other side which is connected to the water reservoir hence making the water inside it cooler.
Room Temp Water Function
This function works much like that of any ordinary water dispenser. Gravity and vacuum pressure are employed here to fill a glass when you press the normal water button.
When this happens, the cooler allows air into the bottle which in turn causes the water to escape into your glass. The water that comes out of the dispenser is at room temperature.
What are the benefits?
Saves More Time
The main benefit of owning a hot and cold water dispenser is that you will have hot or cold water ready every time you need it which can save you a lot of time.
You don’t have to wait long for you to get hot water like when heating water on the stove or the microwave. A water cooler dispenser can have it prepared for you almost in an instant.
You don’t have also to fill all the pitchers and bottles in your home. You can get both ambient water at room temperature as well as cold water right from the dispenser itself.
Great Alternative to Water Bottles
Many people often turn to bottled water when they want to consume more water but as we mentioned above, having to constantly buy more water bottles is time-consuming plus it can also get very expensive in the long run, especially in an office, hospital or school setting.
That’s not even considering how bad single-use plastic bottles are for the environment. A water cooler offers a bit safer and more convenient alternative to purchasing and carrying smaller water bottles every time. It’s a great solution if you usually opt for bottled water over tap water.
Can Provide Cleaner Water
More and more manufacturers are incorporating filters in their hot and cold water dispensers.
These units (we’ve included some below) can provide you with much cleaner water because the filters will help remove chemicals and other common contaminants that may be present in your tap water.
Encourages More Water Intake
A water cooler dispenser at home or in the office can encourage everyone to drink more water. It provides cool, refreshing water throughout the day which can’t be beaten when it comes to quenching your thirst on a hot day.
Another good reason is that it’s simple to use. No need of having to constantly fill up bottles of water and putting them in the refrigerator to chill. You just press a button or push a lever and you get the cool water you need.
Saves More Space
A water cooler dispenser can help declutter your refrigerator as you don’t have to stock up pitchers or bottles of water which only consume the space inside and crowd your refrigerator. The water cooler dispenser will give you cold water whenever you want.
Types of Water Cooler Dispensers
Before we dive into the reviews, water cooler dispensers are divided into two main types, bottled and bottle-less dispensers. Both types require electricity and have similar functionalities, but receive water from different sources which are what sets them apart.
Bottled water cooler dispensers use a standard two-to-five gallons water bottle to deliver water. They are either top or bottom loaded.
As for the bottle-less water coolers, these connect to your main water supply, much like a commercial coffee maker or an ice maker. Some include an in-built filtration system while some don’t.
We are going to look at all these options and give you a few insights about them to help you decide which unit fits your needs the most.
Bottled Bottom Load (freestanding only)
What is a bottled bottom load water dispenser?
It’s a bottled water dispensing machine that loads from the bottom. The water supply bottle or jar is mounted at the bottom in a compartment and the unit uses suction operation to fill the reservoir and to deliver the heated or cooled water when you draw.
How does it work?
The bottled bottom load water dispenser utilizes the suction operation instead of gravity. It usually has a probe, a hose, and a pump for pumping the water out and up into both hot and cold water reservoirs.
Mounting the water bottle to the unit is quite easy. All you need to do is to open the dispenser’s cabinet, remove the cap on the water bottle and put the probe or the water pump nozzle into the bottle until the tube hits the bottom of the bottle, then slide the bottle into the cabinet and close the door.
When you turn the dispenser on, the inbuilt water pump will draw the water up through the tube all the way into the cold and hot water tanks inside the unit.
When you press either the hot or cold dispense button, it will probe the dispenser to begin heating or cooling the water inside the tank. From there, you can release the tap or press the necessary button and the water will flow out through the tap with the help of gravity.
What are the main benefits?
Easy to Setup and Load the Water Bottle
Bottled bottom load dispensers are easy to set up and provide a convenient way to loading the water jar/bottle. The water jar is placed at the bottom part of the unit, not to the top, thereby you don’t need to lift a heavy 3 or 5 gallons water bottle very high and flip it upside down.
This design is quite beneficial for those who are unable to lift heavy weights, especially elderly people. Plus it can help prevent back injuries because there’s no lifting involved in order to load the water jar as is the case with bottled top load water dispensers.
Since the water jar is mounted at the bottom and inside a cabinet, bottom load dispensers tend to be shorter and compact in design than top-loading dispensers, hence they take up much less space.
Easy Replacement of Water Bottle
Replacing the water jar on a bottom loading dispenser is very simple. You just remove the emptied bottle from the cabinet, detach the probe, fit it into the full bottle and slide the bottle into the cabinet then you are good to go.
Moreover, the likelihood of water spillage is eliminated which often happens with top load dispensers where you have to invert the bottle to load it onto the unit.
An Aesthetically Pleasing Design
With the bottle stored right inside a bottom cabinet and concealed behind closed doors, a bottom load dispenser doesn’t lose its aesthetic appeal.
There’s no clunky and cumbersome plastic bottle hanging out for all to see which makes these dispensers ideal for offices and other professional environments. They are discrete and can blend in well with furnishing and different home décor.
The only major drawback is that the capacity of the water bottle is limited by the compartment size of the unit, unlike top-loading models in which you can mount different-sized bottles.
Nonetheless, most units can accommodate 3 to 5-gallon water jars, thereby you will still have plenty of water available.
Bottled Top Load (freestanding & countertop)
What is a bottled top load water dispenser?
The bottled top load water cooler dispenser is the opposite of a bottled bottom load dispenser. The water supply bottle is loaded on the top of the unit in an inverted position and feeds the water directly into the reservoirs below. It works using gravity and vacuum pressure.
How does it work?
A bottled top load dispenser has an opening on its top referred to as the baffle or the water barrel seat where you mount the water bottle in an inverted position. You don’t have to remove the cap/seal of the bottle when loading it.
The baffle contains an inbuilt probe that punctures the seal hence making a hole that allows the water in the bottle to flow directly into the small reservoirs within the cooler.
Inside the unit is a valve that helps prevent the water from flooding the cooler. It only allows a certain amount of water to flow and fill the tanks according to their capacity.
The heating and cooling functionalities are the same found in the bottom load coolers. When you turn the unit on, the water stored in the tanks is either cooled or heated according to the option you choose. Like bottom load coolers, the cooling medium used is mostly a refrigerant.
However, unlike bottom load coolers, the water is dispensed with the help of gravity for all three functions – cold, hot, and room temperature water.
When it comes to operating the unit though, it’s similar to bottom load dispensers. You release a lever or press a button and the water flows out of the designated spigot into your cup.
Top load coolers are also designed to work with 3 or 5-gallon water bottles just like bottom load dispensers.
What are the benefits?
The major advantage of a top-load water cooler is that it uses gravity to dispense the water. There’s no pump required for pumping out water into the reservoirs. Gravity does the work for it and as such, it uses less energy compared to bottom load dispensers.
Easy to know when Water Bottle is Empty
The second benefit that comes with a top-load cooler is that the water bottle is visible hence you get to easily see how much water is left. They don’t need a low water indicator light to alert you when the bottle requires replacement as is the case with bottom load dispensers.
Top load water coolers are the most purchased and most popular water dispenser types to date and this is attributed to the fact that they tend to fall on the affordable side compared to their counterparts. They are the least expensive water cooler dispensers on the market.
The only downside is that they require lifting and inverting a 3 or 5-gallon bottle filled with water onto the top of the unit itself. This can be quite inconvenient, particularly for elderly people because the bottles can be really heavy.
The bottle isn’t concealed too which might not be aesthetically pleasing. Loading the bottle on top can also add about 1 or 2 ft. to the overall height of the unit which means it will require sufficient space above the unit for loading and removing the water bottle.
Bottleless (Freestanding & Countertop)
What is a bottleless water dispenser?
A bottle-less water dispenser also referred to as a point of use water dispenser, is a plumped-in machine that dispenses water without the use of water bottles. The unit takes water directly from the in-house waterline for a continuous supply of cold and hot water.
How does it work?
Much like the bottled water cooler dispensers, a bottleless unit features cooling and heating functionalities. Once turned on, water from the supply line flows into the machine and stored in the reservoirs inside it, one for cold water and another for hot water.
The water inside the tanks is then cooled or heated and with a press of a button or lever, the water flows out from the respective spout with the help of gravity. Some bottleless dispensers also offer the option of dispensing water right at room temperature.
Besides the water supply source, the other major difference between bottleless and bottled dispensers is additional functionality. Bottleless coolers come with a variety of filtration options that remove different contaminants from the water before it’s heated or cooled.
Most units use carbon filtration which involves one or two carbon filters that help eliminate impurities and chemicals like chlorine, lead and VOCs. Other units include a sediment filter as a second filtration phase to removes sediments and particles such as sand, silt, rust, and scales.
Reverse Osmosis (RO) is another type of filtration option used in some bottleless coolers and it can eliminate almost 98% of all contaminants found in the municipal water supply. More advanced units also include ultra-violet filters (UV filters) to kill bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms.
Basically, the type of filtration you choose will depend on the level of contaminants and the composition of the water in your area. However, some units have no filtration method. These are ideal if you have an existing filtration system installed at your main water supply line.
What are the benefits?
Endless Supply of Water
With a bottleles water cooler dispenser, you will never have to worry about running out of water. It’s connected directly to your cold water line or sink tap ensuring a continuous supply of water. It can handle high demands for hot or cold water compared to bottled water dispensers which are limited to the capacity of the water bottle that requires constant replacement.
Clean and Better Testing Filtered Water
If the water in your area is hard or contains high levels of contaminants, then a bottleless unit with a filtration system can be very beneficial.
Most of these units are equipped with a dual filtration system to eliminate a wide range of impurities and contaminants present in the municipal or well water supply. Therefore, you are able to get clean and purified cold or hot water.
Furthermore, you can choose a unit with a filtration method that suits the composition of water in the area you live in or according to your particular needs.
Easy to Use
There’s no loading and constant replacement of water bottles with a bottleless water dispenser which can really be inconvenient and challenging, especially in the case of top load dispensers where you have to lift and invert a bottle to load it on the unit.
Once installed, you will never worry about reloading it since it gets water directly from your existing water supply plus most bottleless coolers don’t require much expertise to install. With basic DIY skills, one can connect them on their own.
On top of that, they are more environmental-friendly as they eliminate the need for using non-degradable plastic bottles, that eventually end up in landfills.
Water Cooler Dispenser With Icer maker (freestanding & countertop)
What is a water dispenser with an ice maker?
A water dispenser with an ice maker is a machine that consists of a water dispenser and an ice maker contained in one unit. It’s a multi-function appliance that’s able to dispense ice and water (hot, cold, and room temp) when you need it.
How does it work?
All water dispensers with an ice maker work almost the same way when it comes to generating ice – water and refrigeration process is used to make the ice.
The refrigeration system consists of four main components; the compressor, the condenser, the throttle valve, and the evaporator (ice mold).
When you turn on the machine and press the ice button, a valve is opened and water from the cold water reservoir flows into an ice mold (evaporator) that’s connected to coiled heat exchanging pipes.
The ice-making process begins with a discharge of refrigerant gas into the compressor where it’s compressed hence raising its temperature and converting it into a high-pressure gas.
From there, the compressed refrigerant gas is forced through the condenser consisting of a set of narrow tubes where it’s converted into a high-pressure liquid and then drained out through a throttle valve to reduce its pressure.
The low-pressure liquid is then moved through the evaporator (expansion valve) where it evaporates and turns back into a gas. It’s here that the heat-exchange occurs with water.
As the water from the reservoir flows constantly over the evaporator it begins to freeze until it turns into solid ice. This entire process is one complete refrigeration cycle.
After the water is thoroughly frozen to form ice cubes, the ice is automatically released and drops into the ice bin from where it’s readily available for dispensing and the process begins all over again.
The heating and cooling process works the same way as we described earlier at the start of the article and the machine generally uses either a lever or push-button mechanism to dispense water.
What are the benefits?
All-in-one Hydrating Appliance
A water dispenser with an ice maker is an all-in-one hydrating machine. It’s ideal for businesses and establishments that often need easy access to ice and water. It’s able to dispense ice along with hot water, cold water, and room temp water in the same unit.
Customers or employees can get water instantly whenever they’re thirsty or need to make a quick cup of coffee or tea and they can also keep it cool with ice whenever they want just from one station.
Having fresh water and ice available in an instant is not just useful but it’s quite convenient as well. Some customers usually prefer serving themselves than bothering to ask a staff person to bring ice for them.
The benefit of a water dispenser with an ice maker is that it’s designed for self-service.
If you own a café, deli, or bar that’s short on serving staff, you can benefit from having this machine since customers can get their own ice or water without requiring your staff’s assistance.
They can dispense all the ice they want whenever they wish without moving from station to station.
These machines usually generate ice every 10 minutes and come with built-in storage bins which ensure there is sufficient ice to satisfy a sudden rush of customers.
Whether you need it for office, school, or home use, a water cooler dispenser is a convenient and versatile appliance that can address all your hydration needs.
The units we have discussed above provide a good combination of reliability, durability, and ease of operation. Some models may have several downsides but overall, they are okay and worth a look.
Evaluating all the features and details that matter to you is the best way to making a great choice, especially because these units only have subtle differences.
We’ve tried to break down everything in this article and hopefully, you are now more informed enough.
However, no matter the type of unit you end up choosing, the most important thing you should focus on is getting the right water cooler dispenser based on your exact needs.