Adding a water dispenser to your list of kitchen appliances gives you more than just chilled water on-tap (although, chilled water alone can be pretty great). With many of today’s dispensers offering instant heating, as well as filtering for increased flavor, these devices have a range of uses cases—from herbal teas and coffee alternatives, to helping end troublesome soda habits.

Here are the results of our in-depth review into the best water dispensers available to buy right now. We surveyed the most popular and most recommended water dispenser models on the market, to help you choose your next water-conditioning device.

Key Points

  • A water dispenser is, in basic terms, a home version of the ubiquitous office water cooler. It’s a device that cools or heats up water for drinking.

  • Some home dispensers integrate with your plumbing, while others use a manual reservoir with gravity or vacuum system. This is similar to the classic upside-down gallon bottle used in coolers.

  • Dispensers come in many shapes, sizes, and build qualities. Premium devices are constructed from long-lasting materials that are easy on the eye—many with integrated water filter cartridges.

  • While an appropriate water filter should always be used for handling contaminants in drinking water, even non-filtering dispensers have their own specific benefits. These include increased refreshment on hot days, reduced plastic bottle usage, and an incentive to turn down sodas and juices.

Explainer: What’s the difference between a water dispenser and a water filter?

In theory, a water dispenser is intended to make hot or cold water more convenient and accessible. A water filter, on the other hand, is designed to remove a specific set of contaminants from a tap supply (depending on the filtering mechanism).

The reality, however, is that many dispensers will also filter water to some extent, while many filters can provide the convenience of a countertop dispenser. This makes it important to carefully check a dispenser’s specifications against your needs when shopping.

Those looking for a filtering dispenser should keep the numbers 42 and 53 in mind. These are the Standard Certification numbers for effective home filters attributed by the NSF—the leading water device safety board.

But don’t feel pressured into investing what may be some significant extra costs into a filtering device, if you’re really more interested in the idea of a simple home dispenser. The majority of us live in regions connected to city and regional water suppliers, whose water product is closely monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency for the main threats to water safety and tase.

In fact, all homeowners on a public water supply can check up on what exactly goes into their tap water through their annual Consumer Confidence Report, which suppliers are mandated to produce. This should let you know whether or not a filtering dispenser is a good idea.

If you do happen to be one of the thirteen or so million Americans who get their drinking water from a private well, then a water dispenser—filtering or not—should only ever be a secondary consideration, after you’ve ensured water safety.

FAQs

If your model of water dispenser is not designed to incorporate a replaceable filter cartridge, options for filtering are restricted to an inline filter, installed with your kitchen plumbing, or a whole-house filter at the water mains point of entry.

Both of these options provide extensive filtering for the kitchen or entire home—but they’re also accompanied by significant price tags. For water filtering on a budget, look to pitcher filters and faucet-mounted designs.

From the standard cooler, to the bottom-loading cooler, to several categories of countertop dispenser, there’s quite the range to choose from when it comes to this type of drinking water device.

Some dispensers will also integrate into your kitchen setup, either by attaching to a wall or through a dedicated faucet. The best way to narrow your water dispenser search is to decide on those features and designs that will work best for you. Ask yourself:

  • Do you need hot as well as chilled dispensing?
  • Do you need filtering?
  • Would you prefer a countertop model?
  • Does appearance matter?
  • Is it better to integrate the dispenser with your water line, or use a fillable reservoir?

A water cooler is a subset category of water dispensers. Most people use the term ‘water cooler’ to refer to budget or value water dispenser models, constructed from hard plastics and using disposable five-gallon reservoirs—great for watercooler moments at the office; not so great for a sleek, aesthetically pleasing kitchen.

The negative effects of sports drinks and sodas on a sedentary lifestyle are well documented and acknowledged. So much, that a soda addiction can effectively cancel out other good dietary and exercise choices. Having a purified water dispenser makes it easier to ditch sodas, juices, and other convenience drinks, building up more positive and beneficial routines around hydration. Cutting down on bottled drinks is also healthy for the environment and on your bank balance!

In addition, continuing research on microplastics is revealing possible concerns about particles from screwtop bottles entering the liquid inside, making levels of plastic fibers in popular bottled water brands up to twice as high as those found in tap water. Though studies are yet to confirm specific health risks, using a dispenser means you needn’t worry about any potential effects.

More generally speaking, a dispenser also makes it easier to drink more water on a daily basis. Instant access to hot or cold water encourages more water consumption through teas, lemon water, and other hydrating beverages, helping you get those eight glasses—or two to three liters—per day.