Water dispensers are more than just a water cooler. With their ability to dispense hot or cold water at the touch of a button or paddle, it makes them perfect for improving water consumption in the home. For the many of us who rent water dispensers, installing our own in the home, or even the office, is often more cost effective.One of the main types of dispenser is the bottled dispenser and this review looks at some of the bestselling bottled dispensers currently available. We also look at key features of dispensers and their advantages, discuss some of the concerns around bottled water safety and supply some maintenance tips. We hope therefore, that this review will provide you with what you need to know to choose the best water dispenser for your home.
Our Best Pick is the stylish stainless steel Primo water dispenser with pet station for not just providing hot and cold water to the family, but also to our pets.
Our Budget pick is the Energy Star rated Avalon A1 water cooler which supplies hot and cold water through a slimmer design for slimmer budgets.
Quick Comparison: Top 8 Best Water Dispensers
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1. Primo Water Dispenser with Pet Station
The Primo water dispenser with pet station dispenses hot and cold water as well as filling a pet bowl at its base. The pet station allows the bowl to lock into one of three positions and fill when you press a separate ‘paw’ button. As a safety feature, if the pet bowl does not lock in place, the water will not flow. The water that does flow into the pet bowl is not cool, it is just room temperature.
This Primo top loading dispenser is a premium stainless steel design with chrome accents and any materials in contact with the water are certified BPA-free. The reservoirs are stainless steel to help prevent bacterial growth. It has an LED nightlight and a spill-proof bottle holder with a leak guard, which will stop any water leaks if a bottle is damaged. It also comes with a one year limited warranty.
2. Avalon A1 Water Cooler
Offering a choice of cold water at around 47°F and hot water at around 185°F, the Avalon A1 water cooler is Energy Star rated for its energy efficiency and UL certified that it meets standards. The tanks are high grade 304 stainless steel which helps minimize bacterial growth and it is operated by press-paddle spouts. A top loading and slimmer design, the hot water spigot also has a child safety lock.Although this product comes with a one year limited warranty, earlier buyers had some difficulty in contacting the manufacturer when making warranty claims. The manufacturer has since made changes to their customer service processes.
3. Whirlpool Water Cooler
The Whirlpool water cooler provides extra cold 40°F water with cooling technology that forms ice inside the tank. Hot water is dispensed at 194°F. It is a bottom loading dispenser with a heavy duty commercial pump and its siphon that can suck up more remaining water than similar products, although you may find that this dispenser is louder due to its heavier-duty pump.
The hot water spigot has a child safety lock and hot water can be turned off when not wanted. It has an adjustable water probe suitable for all sizes of bottle as well as an LED night light. This dispenser does sound an alarm when there is a blockage in the unit or when the bottle is empty which may be a nuisance during the night. There is a one year limited warranty on this dispenser.Energy Star rated, it is also designed to commercial standards with a solid steel frame, cold rolled steel sides and a stainless steel front.
4. NewAir WAT40B Black Water Dispenser
The NewAir WAT40B black water dispenser offers cold water to as low as 39°F and hot water output of up to 185°F. It has Energy Star rating for its energy efficient compressor and it is certified by NSF, which means that it is suitable for commercial environments.This bottom loading dispenser comes with a one year limited warranty and is free from BPA. Like any dispenser, it needs regular cleaning to prevent the build up of bacteria and minerals and some users may find this dispenser quite noisy when running.
5. Brio CL520 Top-Load Cooler
The Brio CL520 top-load cooler is suitable for three or five gallon bottles. The body of this black dispenser is commercial grade durable ABS and the tanks are 100% stainless steel. It has an innovative non-spill top to prevent spills when changing bottles over.There is a separate power switch for the hot water, which means you can turn it off when not in use and the hot spigot has a child safety lock. The drip tray is BPA-free and is removeable, although some users may find that it does not always stay locked in place.
6. Primo White Bottom Loading Water Dispenser
The Primo white bottom loading water dispenser dispenses both hot and cold water by pressing buttons. The hot button has a child-resistant safety feature. It is suitable for three or five gallon bottles although the manufacturer recommends use of their own bottled water which may be more expensive than similar bottled products.The tanks are stainless steel to minimize bacteria growth and the removeable drip tray is dishwasher safe. This dispenser comes with a one year limited warranty and it is UL certified and Energy Star rated.
7. Clover B14A Hot and Cold Dispenser
The Clover B14A hot and cold dispenser uses top loading bottles to serve cold water between the adjustable range of 35.6°F and 53.6°F, or hot water at around 185°F. The tanks are stainless steel and the body is UV-protected high density polyethylene for easy cleaning.This is a quiet running energy efficient dispenser with Energy Star rating and it also has a separate power switch for the hot water so that you only need to turn it on when you want hot water. It also has a secondary safety float mechanism to minimize water spillage and a child lock on the hot water spigot. It comes with a one year limited warranty and you can choose to buy an extra warranty for up to three years.
8. Costway Ice Maker and Water Cooler Dispenser
The Costway ice maker and water cooler dispenser also supplies hot water. This top loading dispenser is push button, has indicator lights and a child safety lock. It has a Smart water barrel seat which is detachable and easy to clean, and the drip tray is also removeable for easier cleaning.
The ice maker takes between seven and 15 minutes to run a cycle and when the ice unit is full at 4lb., the cycle automatically finishes. You can then just open the unit door and scoop out the ice. As this model may be noisier than similar dispensers, you may need to consider its position in the home for minimal noise disruption. The manufacturer currently only offers a three month warranty on this item, so for extra peace of mind you may want to consider buying an extra warranty.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Water Dispenser
The Water Cooler and a Water Dispenser
A cooler and a dispenser both dispense water, but the dispenser may not cool water as it can be a non-electric type. A dispenser usually heats water as well. If you want water cooling or heating, the dispenser will always need an electrical outlet.
If your tap water is heavily chlorinated or contaminated with minerals or pollutants, then using bottled water reduces your exposure to these contaminants. Having a dispenser at home also means easy access to cold or hot water at any time of day or night and as bottled dispensers are portable, they can go with you in the RV.
Features of Bottled Water Dispensers
As dispensers that are top, or bottom loaded with bottles do not need any plumbing they can stand away from any water source. They do need an electrical outlet though, but not too close by, just in case the dispenser leaks. Any dispenser should always stand on a firm surface.
It is easier changing the bottle on a bottom loading dispenser and there is less chance of spills. A top loading dispenser can spill slightly when changing, but it does allow you to see when the bottle is running empty. If you have interruption to your power supply, you will still obtain water from top loading bottles as gravity will allow water to run through. It will not cool though until power resumes.
Dispensers are easy to use, and most hot water dispensers have a child safety lock to prevent children from turning it on and burning themselves. You can also minimize the risk of burns by dispensing hot water into a suitable container such as a jug or cup, rather than trying to fill a container such as a baby’s bottle with its narrow opening.
A stainless steel tank or reservoir, rather than plastic, eliminates the ‘plastic’ water taste you sometimes get from certain types of dispensers. It can also help minimize formation of bacterial biofilms.
Buying a dispenser can seem quite costly but if you compare it to the cost of renting a cooler, you will probably find it does work out less over its lifetime. If you have a metered water supply, using a dispenser also reduces the amount of water that needs to run and waste from the faucet before it is cold enough to drink.
Dispensers usually take standard bottles of two, three, four or five gallons and as many of these bottles are refillable you are also helping reduce plastic waste.
How a Top Loading Bottled Water Dispenser Works
When you place a new bottle onto a top loading dispenser, its seal is punctured by a ‘spike’ or similar which lets the water flow into the dispenser. It passes through a valve to prevent flooding and into a reservoir or tank where it is cooled by a refrigerant that circulates in pipes around the tank – like your home refrigerator.
When you press down on the spigot to fill your glass, water moves from the tank and out into the glass, while air moves into the bottle and water flows out and into the tank so that cooling starts over.
If the dispenser supplies hot water, then this works in the same way, except it passes into a separate tank that has a water heater. Bottom loading dispensers work similarly, except a pump is needed to draw water up from the bottle.
Bottled Water for Dispensers
You can buy water from a variety of sources, such as mineral, spring or treated water. Treated water often comes from a municipal source which is then processed to meet US FDA purified water standards. All bottled water must meet federal quality standards and the FDA also inspects bottling plants.
Bottles are made from FDA-approved food contact substances, often in the form of PET plastic. Unlike many plastics, PET plastic does not contain BPA (Bisphenol A).
It is worth checking out what bottles retailers in your local area sell before committing to a specific water dispenser purchase, as not all brands may be compatible. Many retailers also offer return discounts for the empty bottles.
You may be able to fill bottles yourself, depending on your model of dispenser and whether it has a suitable filtration system. If you do fill your own bottles, you always need to disinfect them with a suitable disinfection solution before filling.
With larger bottles that top load, remember to protect your back by not bending over and lifting the new bottle straight up. If you squat down and tilt the bottle to one side and hold underneath and at the brim, you can then lift with a straight back from your squatting position and then when stood, tilt the bottle into the dispenser.
Bottled Water, Bacteria and Biofilms
During transport, storage and handling, bottled water can be at more risk of biofilm formation. Biofilms are organized microorganism communities that develop due to dissolved organic compounds in the water. Biofilms can be a worry as they may hold more dangerous or pathogenic bacteria.
The bacteria present in bottle drinking water can attach to the surface of the bottle or the dispenser and form a biofilm. In 2014, researchers found that the surfaces of bottles and dispensers favor an excessive growth of bacteria and biofilm formation. They also support other researchers by concluding that glass or stainless steel tank surfaces are less likely to support bacterial growth than some plastics.
The results from research into water dispensers confirm the need for and importance of regular disinfection, although it is also worth remembering that unlike other countries, our bottled water supplies must meet federal safety standards.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Dispensers
Ideally a dispenser needs cleaning and disinfecting every time you change the bottle. Dispenser manufacturers will give guidance on when and how to clean and disinfect, but you can also use a method such as this:
- Mix up a disinfection solution of one teaspoon of unperfumed household bleach in one liter of water.
- Remove the empty bottle, unplug the dispenser and drain any remaining water through the spigot.
- Take the tray and spill guard and place in the dishwasher (if suitable) or you can put them in hot soapy water, rinse, wipe over with disinfection solution and allow to dry.
- Using the disinfection solution, wipe down the inside of the dispenser and the spigots. Then rinse at least one gallon of clean water through the dispenser and drain through the cold water spigot.
- Replace the water bottle and plug the dispenser back into the outlet.
There are also commercial disinfectants available, which should be approved to use on food surfaces and stored properly. You should also use exactly as the manufacturer instructs and flush out the dispenser well after cleaning.
If any filters need replacing, you can usually buy these straight from the dispenser manufacturer.
Storing Bottled Water
The US Department of Homeland Security currently recommend each household maintain an emergency water supply of at least a gallon per person for three days.
The International Bottled Water Association says our bottled water needs storing out of direct sunlight or heat sources to prevent development of algae or mold. It also needs storing away from any gasoline or solvents or chemicals such as household cleaners. This is because plastic bottles are slightly permeable, which means any ambient gases in the air from solvents, gasoline or chemicals could affect the odor and taste of the water.
There is no shelf life on water, which means it can be stored indefinitely, and the FDA does not require expiration dates. An expiration date is usually supplied by manufacturers to reduce concerns about changes in odor and taste of the water.
In this review we have looked at the benefits of bottled water dispensers, not least the money that they can save instead of renting a cooler. We have also looked at some of the safety aspects of bottled water, such as the potentially higher risk of bacterial biofilms, as well as offering some guidance on disinfection to help minimize this risk of contamination.Whether you want to increase how much water your family is drinking, or you want to drink water less contaminated with chlorine or minerals, we hope this review has helped you to make your decision on the best water dispenser to buy for your home or office.