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Bottled Water vs. Water Coolers: Pros and Cons

Most people today do not prefer to drink tap water for various reasons, including purification, possible contaminants, and taste. That’s why when businesses or residences are looking for filtered, purified water options, they often choose between two main options – water bottles vs. water coolers. In the past, water bottles have been a go-to staple for those who want filtered drinking water. But now that the public is receiving new information about bottled water – for example, that bottled water is environmentally harmful and not as clean as we think – many are rethinking this preference.

At the end of the day, we just want to make the smartest decision about getting filtered water. We’re here to help! Check out our pros and cons list that compares bottled water (including individual water bottles and plastic bottle coolers) vs. bottle-less filtered water coolers. 

Related: Water Service Buyer’s Guide

Bottled Water

Bottled water includes both individual water bottles (which can come in packages of 6, 12, 16, 24, etc.) and 5-gallon or 10-gallon water coolers. This is often a popular option because it’s low maintenance and convenient. But there’s a few cons that many don’t realize!

Bottled vs. Bottle-less Water infographic
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Lower upfront costs… but more money over time

When choosing bottled water, it’s often more affordable upfront compared to bottle-less water coolers. That’s because unlike filtered water coolers, they do not require significant set-up and installation by a professional. If you choose individual water bottles, you will simply pay for the package of water bottles alone. If you choose a 5-gallon cooler, you’ll likely pay a small upfront or monthly cost for the cooler. This small price can look appealing, but be careful! Over time, you’ll end up paying much more for bottled water compared to a bottle-less water cooler.  Bottled water costs around $8.50 per gallon, whereas bottle-less coolers provide an unlimited drinking water supply at no cost.

Convenient for single use… but less eco-friendly and purified

One big reason why many people prefer bottled water is its convenience factor. Individual water bottles are a grab-and-go solution – no need for a reusable or plastic cup. Gallon coolers can  also be very convenient, since you load the bottle once and enjoy 5 gallons worth of water simply by pushing the nozzle. However, bottled water can be very harmful to the environment, especially since many people do not recycle their water bottles! At the same time, many people do not realize that bottled water can contain harmful chemicals from plastic. In fact, a recent study found that out of almost 260 water bottles, 93% of them contained microplastic particles, which can be harmful to consume. It is now a well-known fact that bottled water is not as pure and clean as water that comes from an advanced filtration system (like those used in bottle-less coolers).

Less maintenance… but storage space required

The fact that bottled water involves very little ongoing maintenance can be a huge appeal for many people. For individual water bottles, there’s virtually no maintenance required. For bottled water coolers, you can manage the maintenance on your own. Just loading bottles into the cooler and cleaning the machine every few months. This can seem a lot more hassle-free compared to bottle-less water coolers, which require ongoing maintenance visits from a supplier. However, keep in mind that bottled water requires a significant amount of storage space. For office spaces, many times bottles require an entire storage closet or area of the breakroom. Compare this to bottle-less coolers, which save space and don’t require you to store big bulky bottles.

Bottle-less Filtered Water Coolers

Bottle-less filtered water coolers, a.k.a. Point of use coolers or bottle-less water dispensers, are coolers that attach to your building’s water line. They purify tap water with an advanced filtration system that is installed into the unit. Essentially, they provide an unlimited supply of clean water at no additional charge. However, there are some cons to be aware of with bottle-less coolers, as well.

Higher upfront cost… but more cost-effective over time

Most bottle-less filtered water coolers require an initial installation, which can cost you some money upfront - about $75 to a couple hundred dollars on average. Essentially, a water service supplier will come to your location and install an advanced filtration system plus the water cooler. However, once your filtration system is installed, you can enjoy unlimited purified water at no additional cost. Plus, if you are working with a water service, they will come to you to perform routine maintenance. Considering Americans spend billions of dollars each year on bottled water, a filtered cooler can save you some serious money!

More eco-friendly and purified… but less convenient

It’s well-known that advanced filtration systems used by bottle-less water coolers provide cleaner, purer water than water bottles. In fact, it’s much safer to drink water from a filtration system than it is to consume bottled water. When choosing a bottle-less filtered water cooler, you can rest assured that you are consuming the cleanest water possible. Plus, most bottle-less water cooler users have their own eco-friendly, reusable water bottles, which are a great way to avoid disposing plastic! However, some people would argue that water bottles are just easier and more convenient, especially when on-the-go.

Saves space… but more maintenance required

As mentioned, water bottles can be big and bulky, and often require additional storage space. For instance, 5-gallon and 10-gallon bottles often require their own storage space completely. Many people end up storing their bottles out in the open on the kitchen floor or countertop when they don’t have enough space elsewhere, which can easily get in the way! This can make bottle-less water coolers very appealing, as they require very little space. The cooler can sit in the corner of your kitchen or break room without intruding on usable space.

However, as convenient as this sounds, keep in mind that you will need to perform routine maintenance to ensure the filtration system is working properly. Often, maintenance visits are included with a water service and you can easily schedule ongoing appointments. However, if you are not signed up for a water service, you’ll have to handle maintenance on your own or hire someone to help. This can easily add up over time!

Compare Prices

If you are ready to compare prices for bottled water vs. water coolers, we are here to help! Our free online comparison tool allows you to compare up to 5 free price quotes from top-rated water suppliers. Whether you know what you want already or need some help choosing between bottled or bottle-less water, we’ve got you covered!

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