Top Loading vs. Bottom Loading vs. Point of Use Water Dispensers

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Lead, copper, nitrates, germs, fertilizers, and pesticides; so many things can get into your tap water it’s small wonder so many people are switching to water dispensers instead. Water dispensers offer you cool, clean water whenever you want it. They’re convenient, affordable, and easy-to-use, but not every water dispenser is constructed in the same way. There are top loading water dispensers, bottom loading water dispensers, and point of use water dispensers that connect directly to your water system and never have to be refilled. Each one has its strengths and weakness, but which one will work best in your home or office?

Water Dispensers Pros Cons
Top Loading vs. Bottom Loading vs. Point of Use Water Dispensers

Top Loading 

Inexpensive. No Additional Filters Required Hard to Load. Can Cause Back Problems
Top Loading vs. Bottom Loading vs. Point of Use Water Dispensers

Point of Use

Never Need Refilling. No Need to Purchase Water Bottles Require Additional Filters. Difficult to Install
Top Loading vs. Bottom Loading vs. Point of Use Water Dispensers

Bottom Loading 

Easy to Load. No Additional Filters Required More Expensive Than Top Loading Bottle Dispensers


We evaluated each set of water dispensers using four criteria:

  1. Water Quality: Was the water dispenser able to deliver clean water? How?
  2. Set-Up: How difficult was the water dispenser to set up?
  3. Refilling: How easy was it to refill the water dispenser?
  4. Costs: How affordable was the water dispenser? How much does it cost to operate?

Water Quality

Top Loading Water Dispensers

WAT30B-Pouring-WaterTop loading water dispensers use water jugs that are placed on the top of the cooler and feed directly into the water tank below. These jugs are supplied by companies such as Crystal Springs and Sparkletts and undergo extensive filtration before they arrive at your door. Not every company purifies their water the same way, but common treatments include carbon filters to remove heavy metals and pesticides, ultraviolet light to break down and destroy microbes, and ozonation to kill off any germs. The companies also removes any residual chlorine, so the water in the jug tastes a little cleaner than the water that comes out of the tap.

Point of Use Water Dispensers

Point of use water dispensers, sometimes referred to as bottomless water dispensers, are connected directly to the pipes in your home or office. They use tap water, the same stuff that comes out of your sink and shower faucets. In order to provide the same level of water quality, point of use water dispensers require a number of water filters to remove metals, germs, chlorine, and other contaminants. Some of these filtration systems are very elaborate. Blue Reserve Bottomless Water Dispensers, for example, use a nine stage filtration system: a sediment filter, a pre-carbon filter, a reverse osmosis membrane, a PH balancer, an immunity detoxifier, a nutrient booster, a natural antiseptic/antibacterial filter, a taste filter, and a chlorine reduction carbon filter. Not every point of use water dispenser has such an intricate filtration process. Water Logic Bottomless Water Dispensers purify their water with a carbon filter and a UV lamp, plus a special additive called BioCote that kills microbes, while Acquverse point of use  water dispensers just use a simple charcoal filter to remove harmful particles, chlorine, lead, odors, and cysts.

Bottom Loading Water Dispensers

Bottom loading water dispensers use the same bottled water jugs as top loading water dispensers, so their water is just as clean. Like their top loading dispensers, most bottom loading dispensers, such as the NewAir WAT30B Water Dispenser or the Primo Bottom Load Waster Dispenser, chill their water in stainless-steel tanks. Unlike plastic, steel doesn’t impart any flavors or odors to the water, so it comes out tasting clean and fresh.


Top Loading Water Dispensers

Top loading water dispensers are simple to set up. They’re made of a lightweight, high-strength plastic and are generally easy to carry. Most weigh less than forty pounds and require only one or two people to move. They plug into standard, electrical outlets, so it’s easy to find a place for them. Just make sure it’s one with enough space above it for the water bottle. They can can add 1-2 feet to the height of the dispensers.

Point of Use Water Dispensers

Because their water is piped in directly from the plumbing system in your home or office, point of use water dispensers are the only water dispenser that need to be installed by a professional plumber. You’ll need one to come out and inspect your plumbing and hook your water dispenser up to the nearest cold-water pipe. The good new is that this process is generally less time-consuming than it sounds. Most point of use water dispensers can be installed in less than an hour, though once they’ve been set up, they can’t be moved without bringing in another plumber to disconnect the pipes and seal them up again.

Bottom Loading Water Dispensers

Bottom loading water dispensers are made from the same materials as top loading water dispensers. The only major difference is the water pump they use to draw the water up into the water tank, but that has a negligible effect on its weight. They can be moved and maneuvered with about the same ease of use as top loading water dispensers. Their biggest advantage is their compact design. Because the bottle is stored in the base, they’re much shorter than top loading dispensers and fit into more spaces.


Top Loading Waster Dispensers

Top loading water dispensers are difficult to refill because they require you to lift the bottle up and place it on top of the unit, which is harder than it sounds. A five-gallon jog of water weighs over 40 pounds and lifting one can lead to back injuries if done incorrectly. Never bend over at the waist when picking it up. Squat down and lift with your knees instead. That will keep you from straining your back. Grab the neck and tilt the bottle slightly before you lift, so you can get a good grip on the base. Splashing is an issue, so once you’ve lifted it up, tilt the mouth of the bottle down into the top of the water dispenser and raise up the bottom. This will not only minimize splashing, but also Top Loading vs. Bottomless vs. Bottom Loading Water Dispensersprevent any further strain. Some top loading water dispensers come with a bottle spike in the baffle. Instead of pulling off the top and pouring the water in, the spike pokes a hole in the cap as you lower it into the dispenser. The water drains down into the reservoir without every getting on you. It’s a convenient and reduces the amount of time spent fussing with the bottle.

Point of Use Water Dispensers

The main advantage of a point of use water dispenser is that they never need to be refilled. Once the unit has been set up, the flow of water is continuous. They only things that need to be changed are the filters, which normally last 6-12 months. Some filters, like the ones in the Aquverse Bottleless Point-of-Use Water Cooler, have to be changed manually. Others, like the Blue Reserve Bottomless Water Dispensers, require someone from the company to come out and help, though often they don’t charge extra for these visits.

Bottom Loading Water Dispensers

Refilling a bottom loading water dispenser is easy. The dispenser comes with a cap and hose that fit over the top of the bottle and extend down to the bottom. All you have to do is peel the seal of the top of the bottle and fit the cap over it. Then slide the bottle into the base of the water cooler and you’re done. Press down on the water taps as usual and the pump will suck up up water as necessary to fill the tanks. It’s a lot less tiring than lifting a 5-gallon water jug and there’s no risk of spilling water on yourself or the floor.


Top Loading Water Dispensers

Top loading water dispensers are the least expensive water dispensers on the market. Average costs range from $110-$200, depending on what type of dispenser you buy. Some, like the Aquverse B17 Top Loading Hot and Cold Free-Standing Water Dispenser or the Glacial Taller Black Top-Load Water Dispenser, will cost upwards of $250 or $300, but these are outliers. Most top loading dispensers can be purchased cheaply.

WAT30B-WindowTop loading water dispensers do have some potentially significant long-term costs, namely the water jugs. Families of 2-5 will probably consume between three and four five-gallon jugs of water each month. Each jug costs $7-$8 to be delivered, so monthly costs are usually $21-$32. If you work in an office with 10 people, you’ll probably consume 6-8 bottles of water ($42-$64 per month) and offices with 25 people normally consume 17-20 jugs ($119- $160 per month). Prices continue to rise as you add more people and for large companies, water costs can be very high.

Some delivery companies charge a flat fee instead of charging you per bottle, and their rates are usually better. Some charge as little as $10 per month, but sometimes more if you work in a large company and require more deliveries. Water jugs can also be refilled manually at refill stations in your local supermarket or convenience store, but because of the effort required to carry a full, 5 gallon water jug, it’s normally only an option for small families or very small businesses.

Point of Use Water Dispensers

Point of Use water dispensers have the highest upfront costs but the lowest operating costs of any water dispenser. They cost $300-$400 to purchase, but only pennies to operate. Nothing more than what you’d pay to turn on the tap. Most municipal tap water costs a penny for four gallons, so the costs for 100 gallons (20 5-gallon water jugs) is only $0.25; very cheap.

Bottom Loading Water Dispensers

Bottom loading water dispensers cost more than top loading water dispensers, but cost the same to operate. Purchase costs range from $170-$245, plus the costs of the water bottles.

The Bottom Line

If you’re buying a water dispenser for your home or for a small office, your best choice is probably a bottom loading water dispenser. They provide all the benefits of a top loading water dispenser without any of the drawbacks. They’re reasonably priced, easy to load, won’t spill or cause back stain. Installation is easy. You don’t have to contact a professional to set them up, and it’s this ease-of-use that makes bottom loading water dispensers such a bargain. You get all of the advantages of clean, fresh water without any major drawbacks of the other two dispensers.

Best Bang for Your Buck

The one advantage a point of use water dispenser has that the others can’t match is their low operating costs: literally less than a penny per gallon. If you work at a large company or your family drinks an exceptionally large amount of water, a bottomless water dispenser may be your best option. Their upfront costs are high, but they’re long-term costs are very low. If you purchase one from a company like Blue Reserve, which supplies replacement filters for free, your savings will be even higher.

Top Loading vs. Bottomless vs. Bottom Loading Water Dispensers

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