Water coolers offer a number of choices – including temperatures, capacities, energy consumption, and even flavors. Below we review the different types of water coolers available on the market, and how to choose which type is best for your application.
Water Temperatures and Options
Standard water coolers will offer some combination of cold water, hot water, and room temperature water. Many products will have a dial or switch to adjust the temperature – so if your water is not cold enough, you can change the settings to your preference, although it is important to note that changing the temperature settings will affect the energy consumption. Selecting a unit that also offers room temperature water can also reduce energy costs overall, by encouraging users to drink water that does not require additional conditioning.
Today, many other types of water coolers are available including products that offer sparkling, alkaline, or flavored water. ENERGY STAR recognizes products that offer these capabilities, and products with these other types of beverage options are required to meet the same efficiency tests as typical coolers.
Bottled and Point of Use Water Coolers
Bottle-source water coolers are compatible with standard 3 or 5 gallon water bottles that can be refilled at the supermarket or delivered from a water bottled water distributor. Some bottled water coolers are “bottom loading” -- the water bottle is loaded spout up in the bottom of the unit – avoiding the heavy lifting and occasional spills of top-loading units.
Point of use (POU) water coolers are connected directly into your cold water line and refill automatically. They will most likely require a plumber for installation, but they eliminate monthly water delivery bills and lifting large bottles.
Conversion-type water coolers may ship as either bottle-source or POU water cooler, but include a conversion kit so that it may be installed in either configuration.
Conditioned Storage and On Demand Water Coolers
Most water coolers have internal storage tanks that will hold a certain amount of hot and cold water all day, so that there is conditioned water available at any time. These tanks will lose energy over time and need to reheat (or re-cool) water every few hours, even if no one has drawn water during that period. There are some products on the market that provide hot water on demand – by heating water only when it is needed, these products use less energy. However, there may be a wait of a few minutes for hot water with on demand units. If you are primarily interested in cold water, then an on demand unit can be a great choice, but if you know that a lot of people enjoy tea or hot beverages in your space a storage-type unit may better suit your needs.
Water Coolers Capacity
If you are purchasing a water cooler for personal use and will not have more than a handful of users, a low capacity water cooler will have even greater energy savings. These coolers serve smaller amounts of cold and hot water per hour and have smaller compressors, but can adequately meet the needs for small settings and are very efficient.
For larger offices or commercial settings, a high capacity water cooler is recommended. These products consume more energy, but are capable of providing more than 10 cups* of cold water per hour (0.5 gallons), and more than 41 cups* of hot water per hour (1.9 gallons).
Countertop Water Coolers
If you don't have the space for a full size bottled water cooler, countertop units are also available. Countertop water coolers can usually accommodate 2 to 5 gallon bottles. A countertop model may have a smaller compressor, so water may not be as cold as the freestanding unit.
Filtered Point of Use Water Coolers
If the taste of your tap water is unappealing, point of use water coolers are available that come with built-in filtration systems to remove silt, odors, chlorine and other chemicals. There are 2 main types of filtering systems: reverse osmosis and activated carbon. In a reverse osmosis system, water is passed through a sediment filter, making them effective at desalinating water and removing minerals but not as effective at removing chemicals from your tap water. Filtered water coolers with activated carbon can remove smaller substances and chemicals like chlorine, pesticides and herbicides. These filters will have to be maintained and changed out occasionally.
* In 6 oz. cups
Be sure to look for the ENERGY STAR when shopping for a water cooler
Current Specification Effective Date: March 23, 2022
Water coolers originally qualified for the ENERGY STAR label in September, 2000.
Water Cooler Key Product Criteria: ENERGY STAR
Water coolers must meet the following energy consumption requirements:
|Energy-Efficiency Criteria for ENERGY STAR Certified Water Coolers Using the “On Mode with No Water Draw” Test*|
|Water Cooler Category||Capacity||Qualification Level|
|Cold-Only or Cook and Cold Units||All||≤ 0.16 kWh/day|
|Hot and Cold Units – Conditioned Storage **||
≤ 0.68 kWh/day
≤ 0.80 kWh/day
|Hot and Cold Units – On Demand||All||≤ 0.18 kWh/day|
*ENERGY STAR Test Method for Water Coolers (Rev. May-2013)
** Point-of-Use and bottled water coolers are included in this category
All products must additionally report their On-Mode Performance for Cold and Hot water draws, as appropriate. On-Mode Performance is a metric which can be used to compare the energy consumption of a water cooler during, and immediately after water is drawn from the unit.