Water coolers are devices that cool and dispense water for drinking. They are very often installed in homes and workplaces to allow residents or workers to obtain chilled, fresh water quickly and easily. Water coolers can generally be divided into two major categories — those requiring bottles and those that are mounted and bottle free.
Those water coolers requiring bottles are in themselves stand-alone refrigerating devices without any extra apparatus for being externally plumbed into the water systems of their houses or offices. Instead, bottles or butts of water, often delivered at regular intervals by a contracted firm, are attached to the top of the water coolers and trickle their contents down when the cooler’s tap is turned.
Some water coolers do not have such space on their tops for bottles, and are instead piped directly into the plumbing of their building. These water coolers might well feature taps, under which cups can be placed, or — if more classic in design, might be ‘water fountains’, offering an upwards spurt of water for users to drink directly via their mouths.
Water coolers have also taken on a very distinctive role in popular culture, perpetuated by references to them in TV comedies and movies. It is said that while standing at their water coolers, office workers discuss memorable moments from the previous night’s entertainment with colleagues. This has led to certain moments of TV programming or even advertising being described as ‘water cooler moments’ — meaning they substantially entered public consciousness.