The Best Water Cooler Dispensers of 2021 – Reviews & Buying Guide
Written by: Maria Martino // Last Updated:
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A water cooler dispenser gives you instant access to hot and cold drinking water – no more pitchers crowding your refrigerator because you like a refreshing beverage on a hot summer day; no more standing around waiting for the kettle if you want to enjoy a warming cup of tea.
And although water dispensers are most often found in offices, they are becoming increasingly popular for home use.
They are a great solution if you prefer bottled water over tap water but don’t want to purchase and carry small bottles once a week. Plus they encourage us to drink more throughout the day and stay hydrated.
The only problem: How to find the best water cooler dispenser? Don’t worry, this buying guide will help you out!
1. Best Water Cooler Dispenser: SHARP Ultrafiltration (+ Reverse Osmosis) Bottleless
In our opinion, the best water cooler dispenser in 2021 is the SHARP by Crystal Quest. The SHARP is a bottleless system that uses ultrafiltration – and if you want reverse osmosis – to provide you with an endless supply of clean and great-tasting filtered water.
Using the built-in filtration system saves you from the hassle of dealing with heavy plastic jugs, which is also much cheaper. 5 stars!
A bottleless water cooler system is much cheaper than using a bottled water delivery service.
From the cold water inlet, water has to travel through 9 stages of filtration before it enters the actual cooler dispenser. This guarantees high quality drinking water. The most important filter stages are:
The coconut shell activated carbon filter beds which adsorb chlorine, chloramine, pesticides, herbicides, VOCs, and many other organic contaminants as well as bad taste and odor.
The ultrafiltration membrane for the removal of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms and water contaminants larger than .01 micron.
The copper-zinc water filter media blend also known as KDF. KDF eliminates any remaining chlorine and water-soluble heavy metals such as lead, chromium, and arsenic.
The ceramic balls which inactivate bacteria and cysts.
RO system only: The reverse osmosis membrane which mainly targets inorganic contaminants (metals, salts, etc.) plus microbes. RO water purification is known for its outstanding effectiveness providing almost pure water.
Additional filter cartridges targeting nitrate, fluoride and other water contaminants are optional.
Filter media are NSF-certified for highest quality.
Provides steaming hot and ice cold water ideal for refreshments and beverages.
The hot and cold water storage tanks are large (no waiting times) and made from 304 food-grade stainless steel to maintain water quality.
Heating and cooling capacity is sufficient and process is Energy Star rated.
You can turn hot and cold water on/off separately.
Cooler dispenser is easy to install, use, and clean.
Plumbs directly into cold water line for continuous water supply.
On average, water filter cartridges must be replaced once every 1-2 years. We estimate around $150-200 in annual cost. Filter replacement is simple.
2. Our #1 Bottom-Loading Water Cooler Dispenser: Avalon
In our opinion, the number one bottom-loading water cooler dispenser in 2021 is the Avalon. That’s because it’s energy-efficient while providing hot, cold, and room temperature water, and because it has a beautiful design among other advantages. All in all, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
The best top-loading water cooler dispenser is the Brio Limited Edition. It provides hot, cold, and room temperature water instantly, and has the benefit that any top-loading water cooler has: You can see at a glance if you are about to run out of drinking water.
4. Our Favorite Countertop Water Cooler: Crystal Quest TURBO
The Crystal Quest TURBO is meant to sit on a countertop. And just like the Crystal Quest SHARP reviewed above, the TURBO is a bottleless water cooler that comes with built-in filtration. As a result, you get an unlimited supply of freshly filtered water without the need to heave water bottles ever again.
Crystal Quest TURBO Countertop Water Cooler Dispenser
SMART filter cartridge contains a blend of filter media:
Standard and catalytic coconut shell granulated activated carbons are mixed with Crystal Quest’s proprietary Eagle Redox alloys and ion exchange resin to remove heavy metals such as lead and mercury, chlorine and chloramine, and chemicals including herbicides and pesticides from water – among other contaminants.
The filter media also balances water pH through mineralization.
All in all the water in your home will be much healthier.
Filtered water is stored in food-grade stainless steel to avoid recontamination.
Cold and hot water production and storage capacities are sufficient. Avoids waiting times.
Can be controlled separately.
Overall, system is easy to use and clean.
Annual filter replacement is straightforward and cost is minimal (around $50).
We would have preferred the same thorough water filtration process as used by the SHARP water dispenser.
5. Best Budget Water Dispenser: Giantex Electric Primo
Giantex offers one of the most affordable water cooler dispensers out there. The unit proves that a super low price tag does not automatically mean super low quality: We have a sober design and a handful of cool features for ease of use.
However, we also have various issues that several users had to deal with in the past. All in all, we believe the price-performance ratio to be acceptable. Just don’t expect anything fancy!
6. Brio Essential Series Bottom Loading Water Dispenser
3 different temperature modes (ice cold, room, steaming hot), rapid water flow, and quiet operation – these features are pretty standard for most high-end water cooler dispensers. But the elegant Brio Essential Series CLBL420 that will perfectly blend with your other kitchen appliances offers even more!
Brio Essential Series Bottom Loading Water Dispenser
8. Primo Bottom-Loading Water Dispenser Compatible with K-Cups
You saw right, this hot and cold water dispenser is compatible with K-cups! In other words, all you need to do is insert a pod into the drawer of the built-in K-cup machine – you can also use the included reusable coffee filter with your own coffee grounds – slide the drawer back in, and press one of the serving size buttons: 6, 8 or 10 ounces. And voila, here is your freshly brewed cup of coffee.
This is possible because we are talking about a bottom-loading unit for easy bottle replacing.
Comes with LED night light.
Child safety lock prevents hot water accidents.
Even with up to 5 gallons of water at your demand you cannot brew cup after cup after cup. After making two 10 oz cups you need to wait exactly 12 minutes for new water to reach the required temperature.
This also goes for the hot water dispenser.
Some people seem to go through their unit(s) rather quickly due to soft- or hardware errors.
12. Primo Stainless Steel Self-Sanitizing Bottom-Load Water Cooler Dispenser
There are two good reasons for buying the Primo 601090-SO water cooler dispenser. First, it features a bottom-loading design. Second, it’s self-sanitizing. However, we must also take into account one major problem: Leaks. As long as this doesn’t get fixed, it’s 3 stars us.
Primo Stainless Steel Self-Sanitizing Bottom-Load Water Cooler
Removable Drip Tray (BPA-free), Energy Star Certified, Self Cleaning, 3 Temperatures, UL-Certified
Crystal Quest TURBO
Provides Filtered Water
Giantex Electric Primo
Includes Safety Lock, Sleek Design
Brio Essential Series Water Dispenser
Energy Star Rated, Three Water Temperatures, BPA-Free Drip Tray
COSTWAY 2-in-1 Water Dispenser
Removable Drip Tray, Includes Ice Maker
Primo hTRIO Water Dispenser
Energy Star Rated
Nutrichef Hot/Cold Top-Loading Countertop Water Dispenser
Child Safety Feature
Avalon Bottleless (Self Cleaning)
Energy Star Rated, Provides Filtered Water, Self Cleaning
Avalon A1WATERCOOLER Top-Loading Dispenser
Dispense Water Using Push-Button Mechanism, Easy to Access Temperature Settings, Child Safety Feature, Commercial-Grade
Primo 601090-SO Stainless Steel
Energy Star Rated, Removable Drip Tray, Child Safety Feature
Primo Porcelain Top-Loading Dispenser + Mini Stand
hOmelabs Bottom-Loading Water Dispenser
hOmelabs Bottom-Loading Water Dispenser is Super Quiet
Buying Guide – What You Need to Consider When Buying a Water Cooler Dispenser for Your Home or Office
Water coolers and water dispensers are actually two different types of products. For one, a simple dispenser doesn’t cool tap water. But because everyone uses the terms synonymously, we won’t distinguish between them here either.
To get the best value for money when buying a water dispenser for your home or office, consider this:
Ease of Refill: Bottleless vs. Top Loading vs. Bottom Loading Water Dispensers
Bottom-load water dispensers don’t involve any heavy lifting and are thus perfect for single moms and the elderly. Above that, they hide the bulky water bottle in their bottom storage cabinet for better looks.
Top-load units on the other hand are usually more affordable. Plus, you can always tell at a glance how much drinking water is left.
Bottleless dispensers provide you with unlimited access to refreshing bottled water without the need to buy water bottles or jugs ever again. In order to guarantee safety for your health they need to feature a thorough filtration process, though.
You want to check the temperature ranges for cold and hot water. Do they meet your requirements?
That said, in some instances, actual hot or cold water temperatures may differ from seller/manufacturer specifications.
Storage and Heating/Cooling Capacity
Two aspects are important here:
Tank volume – A water dispenser with large hot/cold water tanks is less likely to ever run dry.
Heating and cooling capacity – A fast heating and cooling process eliminates long waiting times.
Energy Star Rated
Energy Star approved water cooler dispensers help you save in the long run and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency. Better to spend your money on more fun stuff than electricity…
Sufficient water flow is important especially for high volume usage in offices. You don’t want to spend hours filling a medium-sized pitcher.
Ease of Use
This one speaks for itself. A water dispenser should be easy to use.
For families with small kids, a safety lock is the best precaution against hot water accidents.
Materials & Taste
Believe it or not, there are systems that store the cold or hot water in cheap plastic containers. This will often result in a funny plastic taint. The best solution: Stainless steel reservoirs.
Bottom-load water coolers use a pump which may be loud while operating. Another potential source for disturbing sounds is the cooling compressor.
It might seem obvious, but remember that you need to have enough space to accommodate a cooler plus the bottle on top if it’s top loading.
Self cleaning units use ozone or ultraviolet light to kill bacteria in their water tanks and lines. It’s not a must, but a nice-to-have. Otherwise, each component of the water cycle should be easy to access for cleaning and sanitizing.
Many water coolers have issues with leaks – more than you’d think. Nothing is more frustrating than coming home from work one day only to find water all over your floor. Our tip: Carefully read what people already using a certain product say about it.
Last but not least, a water cooling dispenser needs to be within your budget. Top-loading units are usually the most affordable, followed by bottom-loading systems. Bottleless water coolers can be a more expensive due to the water filtration system.
More on Water Cooler Dispensers
The Different Types of Water Cooler Dispensers
Bottom-Loading Water Cooler Dispensers
Bottom-loading water coolers store their water bottle in a bottom cabinet. This has two advantages:
It avoids most of the heavy lifting. Of course, you still need to place the water bottle in the cabinet, but at least you don’t have to heave it on top of the dispenser.
The large bottle is hidden from sight which is a huge improvement in our opinion.
However, in order for bottom-load water dispensers to work they require a pump (somehow the water has to reach the tanks above). In some cases, this pump may be loud and disturbing.
Top-Loading Water Cooler Dispensers
Top-loading water cooler dispensers store their water bottle at the top. It’s clearly visible, meaning you can always tell the amount of water remaining which is great. But we also think that 3 or 5-gallon water bottles are not exactly nice to look at and that they can interfere with the overall vibe of your home décor.
Another drawback is the jug replacement process. Removing an empty bottle couldn’t be simpler, but lifting and turning a huge water jug upside down can end in a huge mess.
By the way, top-load systems have a lower price tag because they don’t need all the extras that we can find in bottom-load units.
Bottleless Water Dispensers
Bottleless water coolers and dispensers are our personal favorites. That’s because they completely eliminate the need to change water bottles ever again. How? They directly connect to a cold water line and thus provide you with an unlimited supply of purified water.
And in case you are concerned about water quality; of course any bottleless water cooler should feature a sophisticated filtration process which guarantees the removal of all harmful contaminants present in your water supply. We usually like to recommend a multi-stage water filter process combining different kinds of filter media for broad contaminant reduction.
The main drawback of bottleless systems is that they are even more expensive than bottom loaders.
Countertop Water Cooler Dispensers
Lastly, we have countertop water dispensers. They can be top-loading or bottleless, but what they all have in common is their much smaller size. Placed on a table or countertop, they are ideal for small apartments and office use. On top of that, they are cheap!
Benefits of Water Coolers and Dispensers – Why Buy One?
3 Temperature Options
The number one benefit of buying a water cooler and dispenser is that you get 3 water temperature settings to choose from: Cold water for refreshing drinks; hot water for tea, coffee, and instant meals; and room temperature water for the frugal people among us.
A water cooler can save you money, because buying large water jugs is cheaper than buying small water bottles. And if you opt for a bottleless model, you can save even more!
Let’s be honest, water coolers and dispensers are just convenient. 24/7 access to cold/hot water instantly? I’m in!
On the one hand, cooling and heating water around the clock wastes energy. This is why you should remember to turn off your water dispenser when you don’t need it.
On the other hand, the reusable water jugs are much less of a burden for the environment. What’s more, a bottleless water cooler produces almost no plastic waste at all!
Filtration: Better Water Quality
Speaking of, filtering the water in your home you often achieve higher-than-bottled-water quality.
Cleaning, Sanitizing & Other Maintenance Tasks
What are the important steps involved when maintaining a water cooler?
Cleaning a System
It is usually recommended to clean a water cooler dispenser prior to installation and up to multiple times per year when in use. Here’s how:
Put the heating and cooling switches in off position and unplug the machine.
Wait long enough for any hot water inside the dispenser to cool down.
Remove the screws securing the back/top cover.
Take out the cold water tank cover.
Pour clean water into the cold water tank.
Remove the cover of the drain outlet and let all water drain into a bucket.
Put the drain cover, cold water tank cover, and the back/top cover back in place.
Cleansing the Condenser
The condenser on the back of a water cooler must be kept clean at all times. Make sure to inspect it about every 3 months. For cleaning, unplug the machine and remove any dirt using a brush.
If you want to sanitize your water cooler follow these instructions:
Turn off the heating and cooling switches.
Unplug the machine.
Wait until any hot water inside the dispenser has cooled down.
Drain both the hot and cold water reservoir (see above).
Sanitize the tanks and spouts using a mild cleaning agent. If you cannot remove the components, fill sanitizing solution into the cooler and let it stand for a couple of minutes before draining it through the faucets.
Rinse with clean water afterwards.
Put everything back together.
Flush the water reservoirs until any trace of cleaning agent has been removed.
You can also clean the cabinet outside and drip tray with a mild cleaning solution.
Reconnect the power supply and turn on the heating/cooling switches.
Other maintenance tasks involve changing the filter elements on a bottleless water dispenser.
Shut off the water supply.
Put hot/cold water switches in off position.
Unplug the machine.
Wait until water has cooled down.
Drain any remaining water.
Disconnect filter cartridge(s) from tubing.
Replace each filter stage with new cartridge.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Which is better, top or bottom-loading water cooler?
They’re both easy to use. However, we prefer a bottom-load water cooler because changing jugs is a piece of cake. It simply goes into the storage cabinet. Replacing bottles on a top-load water cooler is more complicated.
Are water coolers sanitary?
You need to clean them regularly to make sure they are.
What features should I look for in a water cooler?
Most importantly, you need to choose between the 3 types of water dispensers: Bottleless, bottom-loading, and top-loading water dispensers.
Is a water dispenser worth it?
In our opinion, their most important advantage is convenience. But generally speaking, we prefer to do our own filtration.
Questions about hot and cold water dispensers? Ask away!
And don’t forget to revisit this buying guide from time to time as we are going to continue our hunt for the best water cooler dispenser adding new dispenser reviews occasionally.
About the Author Maria Martino
Maria Martino is one of our part-time content creators. She owns a B.A. in Multimedia Journalism from the University of Chicago and enjoys writing about all walks of life. When she doesn’t write, Maria likes to portray people and support her local community.
Learn more about Maria and the rest of the BOS Team.