What is a water ionizer
A water ionizer is a machine that is specially designed to provide easy access to drinking water by dispensing either cold or hot water.
A water dispenser which dispenses only cold water is called a water cooler whereas the one that dispenses hot water is called a hot water dispenser.
The machine comes in different models, styles and configurations. Every water dispenser you find on the market falls into 2 broad categories and that is: Point of use water dispensers and bottled water dispensers.
Point of use water dispensers are connected directly to your existing home or office main water supply. Counter-top and wall mounted water dispenser units fall into this category.
Bottled water dispensers, as the name suggests, use water bottles for refilling instead of your existing water pipes. Top loading and bottom loading units fall into this category.
With so many brands and types of water dispensers out there, it is difficult to choose the right one at a reasonable price. In this article, i am going to explain all you need to know about water dispensers. This will help you choose the right dispenser for your specific needs.
History of water dispenser or water cooler
The primitive water cooler started during the Victorian days. In those days a water cooler was just a block of ice .
Huge blocks of ice were put into the water cooler to cool meat, drinks, water etc. The main drawback of this type of a water cooler was that it required several strong men to move the unit from one place to another due to its heavy weight.
The first water cooler or dispenser as we know it today was invented by Halsely Willard Taylor and Luther Haws in 1906.When these two men invented this machine, they had 2 things in their minds.
First and foremost they wanted a machine that could cool water for drinking. Secondly, they needed a machine that could purify water. The result was an all in one machine that had these two capabilities.
The inspiration to add the water purification capability into the water cooler dispenser was mainly because of Haws’ father who died of typhoid. After his father’s death, Haw decided to invent something which would clean contaminated water so that it becomes safe for drinking.
These machines have evolved with the times, and now encompass other special features like heating elements.
How a water dispenser works
Generally speaking, a water dispenser delivers water through a spigot or tap when the user presses a button or knob on the dispenser. The type of water dispenser determines how it actually works.
I will explain how a water dispenser works in relation to how it actually chills; heats and dispenses water.
I am going to explain how a water dispenser works in relation to its configuration; that is whether it is top loading, bottom loading or direct plumbed (point of use).
How a water dispenser cools water using vapour compression
- Ice bank water cooler system
Two coils are immersed in a reservoir that has pre-chilled water. The two coils are a pressurized stainless steel coil and a copper coil (containing the refrigerant gas)
The water in the reservoir is frozen by the copper coil that contains the refrigerant gas and a cold supply is produced as a result.
The water flowing through the stainless steel coil is then cooled down by the cool supply.
- Reservoir water cooler System
It is an open end tank system. The external part of the tank is the one that comes into contact with cooling coils (with refrigerant gas), thereby cooling the water inside the tank
This system comes with a float system, a mechanism to prevent overflowing of water.
The advantage of using this method is that users can detach the reservoir tank and have it replaced completely without the need to send the entire water dispenser back for servicing.
The modular design of this type of a water dispenser enables the user to easily detach the tank for refilling and sanitization
- Direct chill water cooler system
This cooling method involves two coils, the stainless steel and copper coils.
The stainless steel coil is the one that carries the water to be cooled and dispensed.
The copper coil is the one that circulates the refrigerant gas that cools the water inside the stainless steel coil.
The cold is transferred from the copper coils to the water inside the stainless steel coils through conduction.
The water inside the stainless steel coil never comes into contact with the atmosphere. This enables the water inside the stainless steel coils to cool down even faster.
Although water gets cold faster, it is at the expense of producing a lower volume of water due to the small lumen size of the stainless steel coil.
This method is similar to the reservoir system explained above. The only difference is that of the location of the water being cooled.
In the reservoir system, the water being cooled is located in the reservoir tank. In the direct chill method, the water being cooled is located in the stainless steel
- The pressure vessel water cooler system
In this method, a pressure vessel (sealed) is filled within the water cooler at a lower pressure.
This method ensures that the water inside the pressure vessel and the atmosphere do not come into contact.
The result of this whole process is large amount of cold water being dispensed .
Although a large amount of cold water is dispensed ,it won’t be all that cold just because the large amount of water is dispensed at the expense of a slower water cooling system.
- Pressure vessel Direct chill system(combo system)
It is a combination of the two cooling systems explained above that is: the pressure cooler and direct chill systems.
This combo system is the one that is the most effective and common water cooling system in modern water dispenser industry.
How a water dispenser cools water using thermo-electric method
This water cooling method is the greenest in its class. It does not use HFC refrigerant gas as other methods do.
To achieve the chilling effect, a thermoelectric device that acts as a heat pump is used to transfer heat from one side of the thermoelectric device to the other.
This results in one side of the device becoming hotter while the other side becomes cooler. In science it is called the Peltier effect.
Water cooler systems using this method tend to be more compact and durable as they do not have any moving parts.
How a hot water dispenser works
The water dispenser works just the same way as traditional hot water heaters which you use at home. A heating element heats the water in the alternate hot tap.
The hot water is then stored in a hot tank, ready to be dispensed via the hot tap.
For safety reasons, the hot tap is equipped with a safety valve .A safety valve becomes handy when you have children at home.
Children tend to be fascinated by anything that has got buttons or levers.
So if a child accidentally presses the hot tap lever, they won’t be scalded by the hot water.
How a top loading bottled water dispenser works
The bottle is inverted upside down at placed onto the dispenser. An inbuilt probe then punctures the cap of the bottle .The puncturing of the cap allows the water to flow into the internal reservoir tank of the machine.
The water is dispensed in a controlled manner using a gravity powered device inside the water dispenser.
This particular type cannot be connected to the drainage system of your building to dump excess water. A small basin that comes with the unit is used to catch minor spills instead.
As far as operating the machine is concerned, it is generally the same as that of a bottom load water dispenser. Water comes out of the spigot into a cup or container when a lever or pushbutton is pressed.
The push button or lever is normally found on the front for ease of access. As the water moves into the cup, air moves into the bottle.
When the container on top of the machine doesn’t have water anymore, it is lifted off the top of water dispenser. To prevent excess water still in the empty bottle from leaking, the water container is automatically closed.
How a bottom loading water dispenser works and installed
The first thing is to open the cabinet of the unit. The next thing is to press the water pump button and then put the nozzle of the water pump into the water bottle
When the water pump nozzle is inside the water bottle, then you can safely slide the water bottle into the cabinet. You can now close the door of the cabinet.
It’s now time to press either the cold or hot dispense button. This probes the water dispenser to start heating or cooling water.
The inbuilt pump draws water from the water bottle all the way up to the water tanks inside the unit.
To check whether you have installed the water bottle back correctly, you should be able to hear the pump making some noise at the beginning.
As far as operating the machine is concerned, it is just the same as that of top loading water dispenser.
How a wall mounted water dispenser works and installed
The water dispenser is connected to the main water supply and electricity. Being connected to the main water supply is to ensure that there is a continuous supply of water to feed the water dispenser.
Electricity is for powering the refrigeration unit that cools the incoming water and also for powering the heating element for those units with a hot tap option.
The refrigeration unit cools water using at least one of the cooling methods described above.
The heating element is just as the one found in a water heater in your home.
The chilled or hot water is then held in a tank so the user does not have to wait for the cold or hot water to be dispensed.
The hot or cold water is then dispensed by pressing a button or turning a lever on a spring loaded valve on top of the water dispenser. The water is delivered in the form of a stream that arches upwards.
By releasing the button or lever, the water is turned off.
In other technologically advanced variations, you don’t even need to press a button or turn a lever as these models can detect the presence of a human being, and then activates the water.
Important parts and their functions
These are responsible for pumping water into the cold and hot water tanks. They are found in bottom loading water dispensers. Top loading water dispensers do not use pumps because water is delivered into the tanks by gravity
- Probe assembly
It is the one that is responsible for connecting the inside water reservoir tank to the water bottle. It is found in top loading water dispenser models only.
- Hot tank and cold tank
The hot and cold tanks hold the hot and cold water respectively before they are dispensed. They are found in all types of water dispensers.
- Probe hanger
During refills, the probe hanger is the one that helps keep the assembly as clean as possible. It is found in top loading water dispenser models only.
Benefits of a water dispenser
- Enjoy safe and clean water everyday
Most modern water dispenser units have a capability to filter and purify water. This reduces the amount of contaminants found in regular tap water.
So if you are hunting for your first or second water dispenser, you better know whether the unit has an inbuilt filter or not.
- Save some $ dollars
Can you imagine the amount of money you use to buy bottled water every month? By buying a water dispenser, you will save money by not buying bottled water every month.
For other types like the direct- piping water dispensers, your only expense is to buy the machine and that’s it. Maintenance costs are very low if any.
- DIY Installation
You can install most water dispensers yourself without any help from a technical person. Most if not all dispensers come with user and installation manuals.
The easiest of them all to install is the bottom loading dispenser which I will explain in detail below.
- Easy to maintain
Literally, anyone can maintain a water dispenser without any problem. If you have 30 minutes a week which you can spare for the maintenance of your dispenser, then you are good to go.
You have to clean it at least one a week so as to maintain its optimal performance.
- You don’t have to be a tech savvy
Although a water dispenser is a technical appliance, it doesn’t require its user to be technical to use it.
Once installed (which is very easy for most models anyway), all you need to do is to press a button to get clean and cold or hot water. Even children can use a water dispenser without any difficulty.
- Be environmentally friendly
Can you imagine the number of bottles you discard to the environment after drinking your bottled water? The plastic waste finally finds its way into the oceans and kills approximately one million marine creatures every year.
You should also know that every year the water bottling process releases over 2 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
With a water dispenser, you can simply get your water using a water glass.
Disadvantages of owning one
Except of direct-piping water dispensers, other types need regular maintenance.
The maintenance needed include buying the water bottles used to load the water into the water dispenser machine. How frequent you buy these bottles depends on your usage
Although the direct-piping water dispenser is much more expensive than other types, it has almost zero maintenance costs. It is directly connected to the main water supply.
Beware of dust
If exposed to dust, the water dispenser’s effectiveness can be reduced significantly. Always keep the water dispenser dust free as failure to do so can lead to unhealthy drinking water.
Cleaning the water dispenser at least once a week ensures that you won’t be having any problems with dust.
Factors to consider when buying a water dispenser
- Self-cleaning feature
If your water dispenser has got filters, the self-cleaning feature comes in handy. A water dispenser with a filter needs more care in between uses so as to maintain its effectiveness and efficiency. The self-cleaning feature leaves you with no worries about maintenance of the unit
Some people prefer to call this functionality a 6th sense self-cleaning feature.
When buying a water dispenser, most people regard it as an investment, and I hope you also take it that way. To guard yourself against counterfeit and cheap products, make sure that the unit comes with at least 1 year warranty. Generally, bottom loading water dispensers come with at least 1 year warranty, that’s why most people prefer bottom loading water dispensers.
- Temperature setting
A water dispenser should preferably have 3 settings, hot, cold and room temperature. This allows you to choose the right temperature for your preferred drink.
For example if you need a cup of coffee, you don’t need to fill a kettle and wait for some minutes before it boils.
A water dispenser with hot settings brings so much convenience to coffee lovers like my mum. If you are a workout freak like me, you might need icy cold water after a workout
- Child safety feature
If you happen to have children or regular child visitors like nephews and grandchildren, their safety is very important. It is known that children are attracted and naturally drawn to anything with some buttons and lights.
As most water dispensers now have a hot water feature, children are at high risk of getting scalded by the extremely hot water when the hot water feature is turned on.
Children can press the hot water faucet button accidentally .To avoid such accidents, ensure that your water dispenser has a child safety feature.
My advice is that you should not buy a water dispenser without the child safety lock, period.
You have to seriously consider this factor when buying a bottled water cooler.
The size varies with the model of the water dispenser.
The capacity of a top loading water dispenser is determined by the maximum size of a water bottle that can be placed onto the machine. This might range from 3US gallons to 20 US gallons .
The most common water bottle size being 5 US gallons. Depending on whether it’s for home use or company use, the size of the water dispenser bottle might vary.
The capacity of a bottom loading water dispenser is different from that of a top loading model. The bottom loading model’s capacity is determined by the size of the compartment that holds the water bottle.
Take note of the shape of the water dispenser compartment as your water bottle should fit into the compartment without problems. If the compartment shape is common, there are high chances that you will get the water bottle that fits well into the compartment anywhere.
If you get a water dispenser with a capacity smaller than your needs, you will end up changing these bottles more frequently, like every day.
For home use, most people can do with 3 to 5 US gallon models. For office use, depending on the number of people who might need to get clean drinking water in the office, anything above 5 gallons can do.
- Water dispenser type
The bottle less water dispenser like the Avalon A8 counter-top dispenser are connected to the main water supply in your home, providing an ‘endless ‘water supply .Although this type provides unlimited access, the maintenance is a little bit complicated and expensive.
There is need for regular cleaning and replacement of water filters.
With bottled water dispenser, a sanitized water tank or bottle is replaced when it’s finished. With this particular type, you don’t need to replace any filters.
Most users of bottled water dispensers say that the water tastes better and the unit is easier to maintain.
- Free Standing or Counter-top model
During the early years of water dispensers, consumers had not variety to choose from, they were forced to buy large units only.
As the water dispenser industry is evolving, varying models and specifications have become available.
Free standing model has larger compressors, so it can produce colder water than counter-top model. The free-standing model tends to be more expensive than the counter-top model.
This model tends to take more space than counter-top model, so make sure you have enough space for it. This model is more ideal for office use and for bigger homes/families.
Counter-top water dispensers can be neatly placed on your kitchen counter-top, thereby saving space. This model is much cheaper than all other models.
The counter-top model is easy to use when replacing the water bottle. This model is more ideal for home use than for office use due to its size. A water dispenser for office use should have a very huge capacity, like 5 US gallons.
- The water dispenser should not easily tip over
The unit should not tip over due to accidental bumps.
Health and safety considerations
Make sure the water dispenser has a child lock feature especially for systems with hot water option. A child lock feature also helps to avoid water spills.
When being installed or tapped for use, the water should not be exposed to outside air. An ideal water dispenser should abide by this.
- The way it is built
The way the water dispenser is constructed determines how durable the unit is. To be more precise, the material used is huge factor that determines the lifespan of the water dispenser Stainless steel tends to be very strong.
Water cooled or heated in a stainless steel tank retains its natural taste and odour.
The only downside of having a water dispenser made out of stainless steel is that stains and fingerprints are easily identifiable .To fix this problem; always keep a rag near the unit to easily wipe the stains and fingerprints.
- Led indicators
Led indicators allow you to know when the self-cleaning feature is running, that is if the system has the self-cleaning feature.
They also allow you to know the current temperature range of your water; that is; showing you when the water is at its coldest or hottest.
- Temperature range for a multi-purpose water dispenser
The hot water feature produces water with heat of about 94 degrees Celsius in most units with a hot water feature.
This temperature may be adjusted upwards if the unit has a temperature adjustment feature. Hot water brings so much convenience to coffee lovers as you can make your coffee instantly. If this feature is on your water dispenser, you easily do away with your coffee maker.
The cold temperature feature is 50 degrees F in most models. This temperature can be adjusted even lower if the unit has an inbuilt temperature adjustment feature. Cold drinking water is handy for those who work out
Room temperature range is normally between 20 degrees Celsius and 25 degrees Celsius
Some units do not have the room temperature feature. Lack of this feature can be overcome so easy. Just take your cold water from your water dispenser and let it stay for some time in the open, the water will take the temperature of its surroundings (room).
So the most important temperatures to have on your unit are hot and cold
- How close will it be to a power source
Just like any other machine, a water dispenser uses electrical power to function. Therefore make sure there is an electrical outlet near the place you intend to place the dispenser.
- Removable or non-removable drip tray
It’s obvious that you will have water spills here and there as you pour out water from the water dispenser into your cup. A removable drip tray comes in handy as it can collect those water spills so they won’t mess your floor or carpet.
A non-removable drip tray will spill water onto the floor when it gets full.
So if a water dispenser doesn’t have drainage system connected to the main drainage system of your home or office, a removable drip tray is a must.
- How noisy is it during operation
You only need cold or hot water out of the water dispenser and not that annoying sound, right? I think we can all agree on this one.
It is always advisable to check on the sound level specification whenever you buy a water dispenser. Because most manufacturers know that customers are very much interested in noiseless units, they always advertise them as noiseless.
As I get to review the best water dispensers below, am going to be very candid on this feature.
If you are so much into the interior décor of your home, colour is a very important factor that you should definitely consider.
From my experience, I have found that most water dispensers come in two colours: white or black with a stainless steel cabinet. These colours should blend in very well with any interior décor of your home.
If a water dispenser has got at least one certification, there may be chances that the unit is of good quality
Water dispenser types
· Bottom loading
The supply vessel is mounted at the bottom of the primary part of the water dispenser, in the cabinet.
It is ideal for home and office use.
Advantages of a bottom load water dispenser
- Easy setup. An inbuilt pump is used to draw water from the supply vessel to the tank.
- It has a compact design. Because the supply vessel is not located on the top of the machine, the bottom loading unit becomes shorter than top loading dispenser.
- Easy replacement of supply vessel. To replace the water dispenser bottle, simply slide it into the base of the water dispenser unit.
- No back injuries. Top load models are very hard to refill, I think you can agree with me. With a bottom load model, there is no need to lift heavy water bottles.
- Aesthetically pleasing. Because the water bottle is concealed inside the bottom of the unit, the water dispenser won’t lose its aesthetic appeal with a cumbersome and clunky plastic bottle
Disadvantages of a bottom load dispenser
- The major drawback of this model is that the compartment size is the determinant as far as the capacity of the water dispenser is concerned.
Unlike top loading models whose capacity is not limited by the machine size, the bottom loading model capacity is limited by the size of the machine.
Because the capacity is determined by cabinet size, bottom load machines tend to be bulky.
- A bottom loading water dispenser is heavier than a top loading water dispenser due to the presence of a pump which is not present in top loading models.
· Wall mounted
This model is mounted to the wall and connected to the main water supply of the building. The reason why it is directly connected to the main water supply is for continuous supply of water to the water dispenser to produce cool or hot water throughout the day.
This model falls under a broader category of water dispenser units called direct piping water dispensers or Point of use water dispensers.
The system is also connected to your building’s drainage system for continuous disposal of waste and unused water.
This model is very common in public institutions such as schools and hospitals.
This model comes in different styles. These styles include contoured basins that protrude from the wall, bottle filler + water cooler combo, as well as rounded square edge designs. The variations are so many; we can’t even exhaust all of them here.
A wall mounted water dispenser is commonly called a water fountain; it is just one and the same thing.
Advantages of a wall mounted dispenser
- A continuous supply of cold water for the masses
- There is no need of a cup ,the user can simply drink directly from the stream of water that arches up
- Modern models of wall mounted models can be operated hands off. These models have got inbuilt sensors that activate the faucet whenever they detect the presence of a human being. This feature might be very useful to those with disabilities of the arms or those with arm injuries which can’t be mobilized easily.
- They are more hygienic than their counterparts(bottled water dispensers)
- No refilling needed. There is no need to buy water bottles with this model.
Disadvantages of a wall mounted water dispenser
- Generally they are the most expensive models on the market today.
- Installation is difficult. Installation should be done by a professional, in most cases it is not a DIY system.
- The water is dispensed directly from the city or municipal water supply; in most cases it won’t be treated or filtered. You might need to install a filter to purify the water before it gets dispensed by the machine.
- The installed water dispenser can’t be moved from one place to another without engaging a professional plumber to disconnect and reseal the pipes.
· Top loading
It is one of the most purchased and a common water dispenser type to date .Its popularity is attributed to its cheap price.
It is ideal for home and office use
- Are one of the cheapest if not the cheapest model you can find on the market today.One such cheap and yet functional example on the market today is the the Giantex water cooler – heater dispenser
- Lightweight. Most top loading water dispenser units require only one or two people to move it as they are generally made of lightweight plastic.
- The water used in top loading dispensers is mostly clean and pure
- Can cause back problems as the water has to be lifted to the top of the water dispenser.
- It is somewhat hard to load
Although most manufacturers give their guidance on how to disinfect their units, i have compiled an easy to use guideline below which applies to most models.
- Use unperfumed household bleach to make a disinfection solution. Pour one teaspoon of this unperfumed bleach into a 1 litre glass or jar of water.
- Unplug the dispenser from the power supply. You can now remove the empty bottle from the top or bottom of the machine, depending on the model of the water dispenser.
- You can now drain the remaining water through the spigot
- Take out the drip tray and wash it using a dishwasher or hot soapy water, whichever is works for you. When the tray is clean, it’s time to rinse it using a disinfection solution before allowing it to dry.
- Wipe down the spigots and the inside of the water dispenser using the prepared disinfection solution. Once convinced that the water dispenser and spigots are disinfected, rinse one gallon or more of clean water through the water dispenser. The water used to rinse unit is then drained out of the system via the spigots.
- Put the water bottle back on.
- You can now plug the water dispenser back to the power outlet
- It’s done; you can now enjoy clean and safe water.
The best 5 water dispensers on the market
Now that you know all you need to check for when buying the most ideal water dispenser for your home or office,let me take this opportunity to review what i think are the best water dispensers on the market and why
Primo Top Loading Water Cooler
Settings:Hot,Cold and cool
Built using :Stainless steel and BPA free material
Child safety feature :YES
Bottle capacity:Can use 3-5 US gallon bottles or reservoirs
Dimensions : It measures 11.8 inches long, 11.8 inches wide and 41.1 inches high
It is highly durable as it is made out of high quality components
Doesn’t make much noise
Uses technology that prevents water spills
It looks beautiful
The unit is BPA free ,hence good for your health
It cools water faster than you think
Operating the controls is quite easy
Dispenses both hot and cold water for your convenience
The 3 buttons for switching cold, hot and pet settings aren’t back-lit
Avalon A8 counter-top water cooler dispenser
Temperature settings:Hot and cold
Built using : metal and high density plastic
Child Safety Feature :YES
Bottle capacity :Its connected directly to the main water source,so its doesn’t use bottles
Weight:Approximately 30 pounds
Dimensions : 14.7 inches X 12 inches X 19 inches
Highly energy efficient
It comes with a built in water filter
Compact hence saving space
Save money as there is no need to buy bottled water,the dispenser is connected directly to the water line
Enjoy bacteria free water ,the dispenser has got a filter built in
It is aesthetically pleasing
It produces much less noise than most water dispensers of its kind
It lacks the cool temperature setting
Lack of consistency in the hot water recovery time
Giantex water cooler – heater dispenser
It has a storage cabinet for storing disposable cups
Configuration :Top loading
Temperature settings :Hot and cold
Built using :It is made out of plastic,that is why it one of the most affordable water dispenser of its kind
Child Safety feature :YES
Bottle capacity :3-5 US gallons
Weight :20 pounds approximately
Dimensions : 11.8“ (Length) X 11.0“(Width) X 31.5“(Height)
Stable and sturdy
Its very easy to clean the unit as disassembling the water dispenser is quite easy
The most aesthetically pleasing water dispenser units at that price,according to my own opinion
The cheapest and functional top loading water dispenser i have seen to date
The water bottle is bought separately
The water flow rate isn’t that fast enough
Although the storage cabinet was a very innovative idea,the storage space of this cabinet is big enough just to store a few cups
Avalon A1 WATERCOOLER A1 Dispenser
Configuration :Top loading
Temperature settings : Hot and cold
Built using : metal and high density plastic
Child safety feature :YES
Bottle capacity :3-5 gallons
Weight : 37 pounds approximately
Dimensions : 11.25 inches X 10.75 inches X 42 inches
The flow rate of the hot or cold water is above average
Easy to maintain
Difficulty for bacteria to grow inside the unit
Convenient to use
Slim and compact
Lightweight as compared to other water dispenser systems of the same capacity and configuration
Easy to move around the house
Certified as an energy efficient appliance
Has a technology that prevents water spills when using the unit
Easy to clean as the parts can be disassembled easily
Spigot is a little bit recessed into the cooler thereby making it difficult to fill bottles with irregular shapes
Unlike other modern water dispensers with 3 temperature settings,this particular appliance has hot and cold water settings only .The 3rd setting ,the cool or pet setting ,is only necessary for those who want to dispense water for their pets as well
Iconic InSinkErator contour
Configuration :Under sink
Temperature settings:Hot only
Built using :Stainless steel
Child safety feature :YES
It doesn’t use any bottles ,the water dispenser is connected directly to the main water line
Weight :7 pounds approximately
Dimensions : 6.75 inches X 6.25 inches X 11 inches
Compact size hence saving space
Durable as it is made out of stainless steel
The most energy efficient and money saving appliance in its class
Comes with a filter to remove chlorine and other micro particles
Dispenses near boiling water on demand
1 Year warranty
You have to buy the faucet separately
The tank is small for more commercial use ,its more ideal for home or small office use