A water cooler is a device that cools and dispenses water.
The most common form of the water cooler is wall mounted and connected to the building water supply for a continuous supply of water and electricity to run a refrigeration unit in the water cooler to cool the incoming water, and to the building waste system to dispose of unused water. Some versions of water coolers are free-standing floor models, which are becoming more popular in countries where it is not common to drink water straight from the tap.
In the standard wall-mounted water cooler, also commonly referred to as a water fountain, a small container in the water cooler holds chilled water so the user does not have to wait for chilled water. Water is delivered by turning or pressing a button on a spring loaded valve, located on the top of the water cooler, that turns off the water when released. Some water coolers also offer a large button on the front or side. Water is delivered in a stream that arches up allowing the user to drink directly from the top of the stream of water. These water cooler devices usually dispense water directly from the municipal water supply, without treatment or filtering.
A newer, free-standing water cooler design involves bottles of water, usually treated in some way, placed spout down into the dispensing machine. These machines come in different sizes and vary from table units, intended for occasional use to floor mounted units intended for heavier use. The water cooler bottle size varies with the size of the water cooler with the larger versions in the US using 5 gallon bottles. Some units offer a refrigeration function to chill the water. These units do not have a place to dump excess water only offering a small basin to catch minor s herbs .
These gravity fed water coolers have a device to dispense water in a controlled manner. Some water cooler versions also have a second dispenser that delivers heated water that can be used for Tea, Hot chocolate or Instant coffee.
When water coolers are used in larger companies, staff somehow manage to show up at the same times during the workday. This informal gathering is often colloquially described as meeting "around the water cooler." Topics discussed during such meetings are said to have a "water cooler effect". This means that these topics are newsworthy current events or office gossip interesting (or important) enough to start off conversations around the water cooler.