Water dispenser buying guide: water coolers for the modern office

When choosing a water cooler for your office you’ll want to select one that looks good, can do the job and will last for many years. Importantly, you need to look for a solution with ultra-high hygiene standards to ensure the safety of all users. Here’s my water dispenser buying guide for 2021.

What to consider when buying an office water dispenser:

  • How many users per dispensing point per hour?
  • Will you fill glasses, bottles, carafes, or all of them?
  • Hot, cold, ambient or sparkling water?
  • Where will the appliances be located?
  • Reservoir or direct feed?
  • Counter-top or free-standing?
  • Water dispensers and coronavirus
  • Regular cleaning & routine sanitisation
  • Touch-free water dispensers

How many users per dispensing point per hour?

Begin by working out how many people will be using each water cooler. For example, a company could have 1000 people on-site, but each floor has 100 people. Each floor may have 3 coffee points, which narrows down your options. This means you don’t need a dispenser with a huge volume because the 3 or 4 appliances per floor only serve 20-25 users per unit.

However, once you get into a canteen, one dispenser could serve 70 people in a 2-hour lunch period. You could install a tap with high-capacity under-counter chiller that serves this amount of people. But if it takes roughly 25 to 30 seconds to fill a glass you won’t be able to serve them fast enough. In this situation 3 taps with smaller chillers would be the most effective solution.

Will you fill glasses, bottles, carafes, or all of them?

Dispense height and output volume are important considerations. There’s a big difference between filling 200ml glasses and 500ml bottles or jugs. The Borg & Overström B4 for instance has a dispense height of 270mm.

Many offices also have meeting or board rooms and serve guests chilled water in large bottles or jugs. In this situation it is one user per dispenser, but the appliance is going to be heavily used in a shorter period of time. You need a water cooler that has a high output and a fast, constant recovery time. A constant recovery time means that the last glass of water or jug poured will be at the same temperature as the first.

Hot, cold, ambient or sparkling water?

Modern water coolers can be tailored to suit a variety of settings and tastes. Before deciding on a water cooler for your office talk to your staff to find out what they would like. In a kitchen area they may want a combination of hot, chilled, and ambient water. In lunchrooms or meeting areas they may prefer chilled and sparkling water.

Where will the appliances be located?

There’s little restriction on where you can place a water cooler, provided it’s within 1 metre of the mains water supply. The further away it is from the mains, the weaker the water pressure and the slower the water flow. It takes 25 to 30 seconds to fill a 500ml bottle, which doesn’t sound long but when this creeps up to 40 to 45 seconds people begin to notice.

We recommend that floor-standing appliances in main thoroughfares, or places with lots of people, are fixed to the wall. Borg & Overström water dispensers have what we call a Rear Cover System. This is a steel cover that fixes the appliance to the wall and covers all the electrics and plumbing making it secure and tamper-proof.

Reservoir or direct feed water dispensers?

Conventional water coolers contain a reservoir of water, fed either by a plastic bottle or mains water supply. Direct feed water dispensers – also known as tankless or bottleless – cool the water as it passes directly from the mains supply to the dispense tap. No drinking-water is stored within the appliance.

Direct feed water systems have an advantage over reservoir systems because of the low wetted internal surface area. They are particularly relevant for commercial settings where hygiene and high performance are of utmost importance.

Counter-top or free-standing?

Water dispensers for the office typically fall into one of the following categories.


– A compact water cooler that sits on a countertop. Counter-top water coolers, such as the Borg & Overström B4, pack a massive amount of innovation within a small space.

Under-counter tap system

– These systems consist of a dispensing tap mounted on the counter-top. The tap is connected to the water chilling system located underneath the counter or sink e.g. Borg & Overström U1 and U2.


– A water cooler that stands on the floor, generally reaching waist height. This is the most popular configuration as they can be installed in most locations. (Borg & Overström B3, B4 and B5).

Point of use (POU) or plumbed in

– This describes a unit that is plumbed directly into the mains water eliminating the need for plastic bottles or water reservoirs. Also known as bottle-less. All Borg & Overström water dispensers are POU.

Bottle-fed watercooler

– This is the traditional water cooler. Bottles are stored on site and inverted onto a spike which feeds a reservoir with water when needed.

Water dispensers and coronavirus

As with existing common cold/coronaviruses, there’s no evidence that COVID-19 can survive in drinking (or waste) waters. This means that like with a common cold, a coronavirus is not known to infect mains water, transmit through an incoming water supply and, therefore, to infect the water system inside a drinking water dispenser.

The known sources of transmission and infection are through respiratory (breathing in) and contact (touching) with the virus. Of these, the only risk to users is the external contact surfaces of the dispenser. Therefore, these external surfaces carry the same risk as any other surface in the working environment.

Regular cleaning and routine sanitisation

With any water dispenser, it’s important that you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on maintenance and sanitisation.

Water dispenser contact points should be cleaned at least once a day. This includes emptying the drip tray or waste tank, in addition to wiping down the outside using a professional sanitising spray and paper towel. Pay particular attention to the contact points.

We recommend that bottle-fed water systems are sanitised at least every 3 months and Point-of-Use every 6 months. This should be carried out by a trained professional. A water cooler is a food product and by not cleaning it you could create a serious health risk for your staff. In addition, limescale deposits will eventually build up inside the water cooler and stop it from working efficiently.

Touch-free water dispensers

The adoption of touch-free appliances has been accelerated by Covid-19, but the desire for such solutions is part of a long-term consumer trend. There are many more solutions now available on the market including our footswitch and water dispensing App.

A hands-free dispenser foot switch can be easily retrofitted by an engineer or qualified technician. It’s compatible with the B3.2 and B4.2 models (including counter-top), both 240v and 110v. It’s also available as a two-way or three-way switch for chilled and ambient dispense options, or chilled, ambient and either sparkling or hot water.

Our water dispensing app enables users to dispense water hands-free. This makes it ideal for use in high footfall locations such as offices and factories.

Re-thinking office hydration

Where once you may have had a floor-standing bottle-fed water cooler in the main thoroughfare of your office, you can now create a custom hydration system designed around the specific needs of your workplace. For instance, an integrated tap in a kitchen, counter-top unit for the boardroom and a floor-standing dispenser in reception.

You can choose whether to provide staff and guests with hot, ambient, chilled, or sparkling water. Some also come in different colours and finishes so you can make a statement or blend your water coolers into the overall office design.

Get in touch to find out more about water coolers for offices.

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