You've probably heard this a few times, but health experts suggest drinking eight cups of water a day. To get what your body needs, a water cooler might just be the way to go. A water cooler, or water dispenser, provides large amounts of cold—or hot—water on demand. Often seen in the office as the meeting place for hot gossip, this convenient appliance has now found its way into homes as people actively try to reduce plastic use.
To soak up as much information as we could, we reached out to Brian Campbell, a self-proclaimed water geek and founder of WaterFilterGuru.com, for his advice on selecting a water cooler for the home.
“Water coolers are big and bulky and require a lot of space. Make sure you have sufficient room to accommodate a system before purchasing one,” he advises. Campbell also adds that it’s super-important to be aware of the extra maintenance tasks associated with water coolers. “You'll need to frequently replace the jug or filters, as well as clean the internal components, including the water lines, reservoir, and spigots to prevent the growth of bacteria.”
Along with Campbell’s expertise, we researched the best water coolers out there, evaluating their capacity, temperature options, load type, and overall appearance.
Here are the best water coolers that make it easy to stay hydrated while cutting costs and reducing waste.
Best Overall, Bottom-Loading
Glacier Bay Matte Black & Stainless Steel Bottom Load Water Dispenser
Sleek design works with most rooms
No heavy jug to flip
5-gallon water dispenser with child safety latch
UV sterilization system keeps unit clean
Water may have a metallic taste when machine is first used
Glacier Bay’s Bottom Load Water Dispenser is a bottom-loading unit that eliminates the need to lift and flip—and, yes, possibly spill—a heavy water jug. Combined with the dispenser’s stylish matte black and stainless steel accents, Glacier Bay’s unit stands out at the top of our list.
This model instantly dispenses piping hot, room temperature, and ice cold water into a large fill area that fits most glasses and pitchers. With a press of a button, think how simple and mess-free it would be to make instant soup or a mug of Swiss Miss! While the water may have a slightly metallic taste on first use, expect that to disappear just after a few runs.
The dispenser is certified by Energy Star and also has a UV sterilization system that keeps your machine—and, ultimately, your water—clean. This water cooler also has a built-in night light, which makes it convenient on those late nights when you wake up thirsty.
Price at time of publish: $209
Dimensions: 41.3 x 12.2 x 13.8 inches | Capacity: 5 gallons | Number of Temperatures: 3 | Loading Type: Bottom | Energy Star Certified: Yes | Self-Cleaning: Yes
Best Overall, Top-Loading
Primo Top Load Water Dispenser
Compressor cooling system delivers cold water quickly
Leak guard collar keeps water from spilling
Dispenser is set low on cooler
For a top-loading water cooler, our favorite pick is the Primo Top Load Water Dispenser. This easy-to-assemble unit allows its top-loading water dispenser to deliver cold water quickly. You’ll also find that it dispenses ice-cold and piping-hot water with just the push of a button.
The stainless steel unit dispenses room temperature and hot water, too. The water bottle support collar utilizes leak guard technology to keep water flowing through the unit—without spilling on the sides.
One thing to keep in mind is that the dispenser tray is lower to the ground than those on other coolers, but that's an easy fix. You can set the cooler on a small crate or a stand to make it easier to access.
Price at time of publish: $156
Dimensions: 36.6 x 10.8 x 11.8 inches | Capacity: 5 gallons | Number of Temperatures: 3 | Loading Type: Top | Energy Star Certified: Yes | Self-Cleaning: No
Igloo Hot & Cold Top-Loading Water Cooler Dispenser
Holds 3- or 5-gallon water jugs
Removable drip tray
Child safety lock
Slim design good for small spaces
May get loud when hot water function in use
The Igloo Hot & Cold Top Load Water Dispenser is a budget-friendly, no-frills alternative to more expensive models. The top-loading water cooler holds 3- or 5-gallon water jugs and features two push buttons that dispense water from two separate spigots: one for cold and one for hot. For the curious kiddos, rest assured that the hot water dispenser has a child safety lock to prevent any accidental pouring.
The water cooler can get a little loud when the hot water function is in use, but overall it's a quiet machine. Although it can certainly work in any room, the cooler’s slim, free-standing design lends itself well to smaller kitchens.
Price at time of publish: $173
Dimensions: 38.75 x 12.5 x 13 inches | Capacity: 5 gallons | Number of Temperatures: 2 | Loading Type: Top | Energy Star Certified: No | Self-Cleaning: No
Brio Moderna Reverse Osmosis Bottleless Water Cooler
Adjustable water temperature
Advanced filtration system delivers contaminant-free water
Must be installed near water line
The Brio Moderna stainless steel water dispenser has a number of features to warrant its higher-than-average price tag. To start, the dispenser allows you to adjust the temperature of the water—cold water between 39 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit and hot water between 174 and 194 degrees Fahrenheit—to suit your exact preferences. The cooler is self-cleaning, has a bright night light, and features a clear digital display.
The main appeal of the cooler, however, is that it sources its water from your home or office waterline—not heavy, plastic jugs. Though this feature makes it hard to move the cooler once installed, it ultimately reduces waste. In addition to being eco-friendly, the Brio Moderna water cooler is good for you. Using reverse osmosis filtration, this Energy Star-certified machine filters major contaminants to make sure your water looks and tastes good.
Price at time of publish: $500
Dimensions: 44 x 14 x 17.5 inches | Capacity: Not applicable | Number of Temperatures: 40 (39-59 degrees; 174-194 degrees Fahrenheit) | Loading Type: Bottleless | Energy Star Certified: Yes | Self-Cleaning: Yes
Avalon Top-Loading Countertop Bottled Water Cooler
Water temperature adjusts in seconds
Child safety lock
Compact base ideal for a kitchen counter or office table
Tall with the addition of water jug
Avalon’s sturdy, top-loading cooler dispenses hot or cold water on demand, thanks to its 420-watt heating power and 100-watt cooling power. This means your water will be delivered at the right temperature in seconds—no more waiting. And because the water gets so hot so quickly, there is a child safety lock to prevent any accidental dispensing.
Perfect for a kitchen counter or office table, this water cooler has a compact base. Just keep in mind that adding a water jug will add another 19 inches to the cooler’s height, so you'll want to make sure you have at least 38 inches of height clearance.
Price at time of publish: $180
Dimensions: 19 x 12 x 14.75 inches | Capacity: 5 gallons | Number of Temperatures: 2 | Loading Type: Top | Energy Star Certified: Yes | Self-Cleaning: No
ISPRING DS4S Freestanding Dispenser with Built-in Filtration
Easy-to-install and maintain
Adjustable water temperature
ISPRING’s bottleless water dispenser connects to a water line rather than a bottle, providing you with unlimited water on demand. The unit utilizes a four-stage filtration system to remove contaminants for cleaner, better-tasting water. In addition to providing the cleanest water, ISPRING’s dispenser provides the coldest or hottest water, thanks to its temperature adjuster. You can set cold water between 39 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and hot water between 194 and 201 degrees Fahrenheit. There is also a room temperature option.
This machine is easy-to-install and even easier to maintain with a self-cleaning system. These features come with a higher price tag, but it's worth it if you have a large family.
Price at time of publish: $439
Dimensions: 41.7 x 11.8 x 14.1 inches | Capacity: Not applicable | Number of Temperatures: 16 (39-46 degrees; 194-201 degrees Fahrenheit) | Loading Type: Bottleless | Energy Star Certified: No | Self-Cleaning: Yes
Best for Camping
YETI Silo 6 Gallon Water Cooler
Keeps water at desired temperature for hours
Bearfoot non-slip feet and Lipgrip handles make for easy transport
Popular Yeti products are known for their durability, and the Silo water cooler is no exception. Made of polyethylene, the Silo 6 Gallon Water Cooler can withstand strong sunlight, frost, and drops. Its permafrost insulation and a ColdLock gasket ensure that all six gallons of water stay icy cold for hours. It can also keep warm liquids at their ideal temperature.
Transporting the cooler to your campground is mess-free. Yeti’s trademark Bearfoot non-slip feet prevent the cooler from slipping and sliding as you traverse rocky terrain in the car, while tie-down slots allow for extra security. When it’s time to carry the cooler, the Lipgrip handles are built right into the cooler’s frame, so you don’t have to worry about mastering an awkward grip. The cooler is heavy, though, weighing 17 pounds without water. Before purchasing, make sure you can transport it. Otherwise, consider it part of your workout.
Price at time of publish: $300
Dimensions: 17.9 x 15.8 x 15.6 inches | Capacity: 6 gallons | Number of Temperatures: Not applicable | Loading Type: Not applicable | Energy Star Certified: Not applicable | Self-Cleaning: Not applicable
Best for Pet Owners
Primo 601243-C Water Dispenser + Pet Station
Pet water won’t dispense unless bowl is in place
Child safety lock
Easy-to-clean drip tray
Cold water may not be as cold as with other machines
With Primo’s Deluxe Top Loading Dispenser with Pet Station, keeping your pet hydrated has never been easier. Simply place the removable, dishwasher-safe pet bowl in front or on either side of Primo’s dispenser for instant, fresh water delivery. No need to worry about accidental water dispensing either, as the water does not release unless the bowl is in place.
Designed with everyday practicality and convenience in mind, this dispenser features an easy-to-clean drip tray, LED night light and indicators, and a quiet heating and cooling system. Though the machine dispenses hot and cold water, the cold water may be more room temperature than cold.
Price at time of publish: $179
Dimensions: 41.1 x 11.8 x 11.8 inches | Capacity: 5 gallons | Number of Temperatures: Two | Loading Type: Top | Energy Star Certified: No | Self-Cleaning: No
Best for Home Office
Primo 601225 Htrio Multipurpose Beverage Dispenser
Built-in coffee pod storage
Cabinet conceals water jug
Coffee temperature may vary
The Primo Htrio Multipurpose Beverage Dispenser could be the space-saving appliance you never knew you needed. The powerful but quiet heating and cooling systems deliver piping-hot and ice-cold water in seconds. The heating feature also helps with brewing 6-, 8- or 10-ounce cups of coffee from pods or grounds.
Another appealing feature: a bottom cabinet that conceals the unsightly water jug. This gives the dispenser a sleek look that is often only seen in expensive models.
Price at time of publish: $250
Dimensions: 43.5 x 12.2 14.2 inches | Capacity: 5 gallons | Number of Temperatures: Two | Loading Type: Bottom | Energy Star Certified: No | Self-Cleaning: No
Our two favorite picks are the Glacier Bay Bottom Load Water Dispenser and Primo Top Load Water Dispenser, which are both durable, well-designed water coolers that fit into any room. These two dispensers have a 5-gallon capacity, perfect for multi-person households, and can deliver ice cold or piping hot water with the push of a button. Although both are Energy Star certified, only Glacier Bay’s dispenser has a self-cleaning function. For a less-expensive, no-frills option, consider the Igloo Hot & Cold Top-Loading Water Cooler, which also has a 5-gallon capacity and features a child safety lock.
What to Look for in a Water Cooler
Size and Capacity
Rachel Kourey, Home Depot’s Merchant of Pumps and Water, tells The Spruce that you have to determine your hydration needs before looking into water coolers. Ask yourself how many people will be using the machine, and how often. From there, Kourey says you will likely choose from three models.
- Traditional freestanding bottled water dispensers: These units typically hold up to 5-gallon water jugs, making them ideal for large families.
- Countertop bottled water dispensers: This option usually holds 1- to 2-gallon water jugs, making them perfect for single- or two-person homes.
- Bottleless water dispensers: These models connect to a water line and provide unlimited filtered water on demand. This style uses filters, which require replacing, and this unit is most often found in offices, but it can be installed in homes.
You'll also want to measure the allotted space, which Kourey says needs to be near an electrical outlet. Keep in mind that a cooler with a larger capacity will likely require more room. Compare the measurements of the space to those of the cooler, and decide whether you need to lower your capacity expectations or rearrange the area to make room for a larger dispenser.
Top-Loading vs. Bottom-Loading
With top-loading bottled water coolers, the water jug goes on top of the unit, and gravity sends water toward the dispensers. With bottom-loading coolers, a water pump draws water up from the jug at the bottom of the unit. This placement is only a slight functional difference, so deciding between the two loading types will come down to personal preference.
“With a top-loading cooler, you can see when water is running low, and make sure you’re prepared with a new bottle,” says Brian Campbell, a self-proclaimed water geek and founder of WaterFilterGuru.com. “You don’t have this perk with bottom-loading coolers, but these coolers tend to have a more attractive design, because the water bottle isn’t on display.”
In addition to a more appealing appearance, Campbell says the bottom-loading coolers are easier to load, since they do not require the lifting and flipping of a heavy jug. People with physical limitations may prefer this style. Bottom-loading machines are often shorter than top-loading machines, which may work better with your space. That’s why we selected the Glacier Bay Matte Black and Stainless Steel Bottom Load Water Dispenser, a bottom-loading water cooler that instantly dispenses piping hot, room temperature and ice cold water into a large fill area.
Kourey says that bottom-loading dispensers are often more expensive than top-loading ones because of the additional parts required to pump water. Generally, top-loading coolers are more budget-friendly, but bottom-loading coolers are more aesthetically pleasing.
Temperature and Fill Settings
Most water dispensers have hot water and cold water spouts with pre-programmed temperatures. Though the temperatures may vary slightly among coolers, Campbell says that hot water is typically between 170 to 197 degrees Fahrenheit, and cold water is around 39 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Your water cooler may also have a third spout for room-temperature water, which is roughly 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
More expensive water dispensers allow you to adjust the temperature to your liking, which may be ideal for households with multiple people with different preferences.
If you have young children at home or want an extra security measure for yourself, consider a water cooler that has a safety lock. That may seem unnecessary, but when you consider how easy water coolers are to operate and how much younger children like to touch things, this feature could become a necessity. Most water coolers have a latch attached to the hot water spout that prevents water from dispensing when twisted, pushed, or pulled. Digital water coolers may have a button that activates a lock function when pressed.
Indicator lights help in the use and care of your water cooler, though they will vary among units. Common indicator lights include:
- Heating Indicator Light: Tells you when water is heated.
- Cooling Indicator Light: Tells you when the water is cooling from the heat function.
- Empty Bottle Indicator Light: Informs you when the water jug needs replacing. This light is usually found on bottom-loading machines, as the jug is not visible.
- Filter Change Indicator Light: Lets you know when it’s time to switch out filters. This indicator is most common on bottleless water dispensers.
- Night Light: Helps make the water cooler visible at night.
A pet station delivers water directly to your pet’s bowl, eliminating the bending, carrying, and potential spilling that often comes with filling it yourself. With pet stations, the water bowl is often installed in the front, left, or right side of the water cooler’s base, making for a little less clutter in your home. For extra safety, look for a pet station that won’t dispense water unless the bowl is in place. For our pick, we chose Primo’s Deluxe Top Loading Dispenser with Pet Station, which allows you to place a removable, dishwasher-safe pet bowl in front or on either side of Primo’s dispenser for instant, fresh water delivery.
Although cleaning a water cooler is relatively simple, it can be a time-consuming process. Self-cleaning coolers give you that time back and maintain the dispenser, which increases its longevity. The self-clean feature most often utilizes a powerful UV light to disinfect and sanitize the cooler.
How do you clean a water cooler?
The steps to cleaning a water cooler are universal, but the cleaning solution may vary. Campbell recommends using a mixture that’s one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach and one gallon of water. For a greener option that also dissolves hard water minerals, home-improvement specialist Stefan Bucur suggests combining five cups of vinegar with one gallon of water. Once you’ve prepared your desired mixture, unplug the dispenser and remove the water bottle to drain the leftover water from the spigots, remove the drip tray and filters, and then soak in a warm soapy water mixture. You can then add your cleaning solution to the water reservoir and allow it to sit for a few minutes.
Try using a long-handled cleaning brush to scrub the inside of the water reservoir, and then drain the solution from the hot and cold spigots into a bucket. Fill the reservoir with clean, cold tap water and drain the water from the spigots into a bucket. Repeat again but with warm tap water. Repeat this one more time. Then, replace any removed drip trays and filters, and put a new bottle on the cooler. You’ll want to press the spigots until water flows out.
The timeline for when to clean your appliance varies. Campbell says it's best to err on the side of caution, and clean it every six weeks. Bucur, on the other hand, says it’s okay to do it every three months. Both, however, tell The Spruce that it may be easiest to clean the cooler whenever you change your water jug, since that is part of the process.
How do water coolers work?
Water coolers work by dispensing water from another source, usually a jug or waterline. They often release hot and cold water and also control the temperature via heating and cooling systems built into the base of the machine. Some water coolers have filtration systems that eliminate contaminants and undesirable tastes, odors, and colors. These models are often more expensive than standard water dispensers.
How long should water sit in a water cooler?
Though most water coolers keep the water airtight to maintain freshness, both Campbell and Bucur recommend replacing your water jug every 30 days. If left unused or sitting out for too long, it can begin to grow algae, which would seep into the dispenser. Campbell adds that if you won’t be using your water cooler for a while, it’s best to remove the jug and load a fresh one once you’re back.
Are water coolers worth it?
Whether a water cooler is worth it or not ultimately comes down to personal preference and needs. Campbell says that water coolers are worth it for people who drink a lot of bottled water and want to cut down on waste and costs, as well as people who regularly drink hot and cold water and want to access both with the push of a button. They may not be worth it for people who won’t use the cooler more than twice a day or don’t want to deal with the maintenance required to keep a water dispenser clean and full.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Leah Rocketto, a lifestyle writer and editor for The Spruce. To select the best water coolers, she sorted through dozens of customer and third-party website reviews.
She also spoke with Rachel Kourey, Brian Campbell, and Stefan Bucur to gain a better sense of the features that make for a must-have water cooler. Kourey is The Home Depot’s Merchant of Pumps and Water and is responsible for staying up-to-date on all devices in these categories. As founder of WaterFilterGuru.com, Campbell is a water treatment expert who has provided water-quality analysis tools, instrumentation, and services to companies around the world. Bucur is a home-improvement specialist, with a focus on kitchen appliances.