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What is a Water Cooler?

Some water coolers are able to freeze ice cubes in under ten minutes.
A water cooler bottle.
Office gossip is often exchanged at the water cooler.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 August 2014
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A water cooler is an appliance which chills and dispenses water. Water coolers take a number of forms, and some of them offer extra features like warm water or ice cubes. Water coolers can be found in offices, schools, and a variety of other locations where people might want to be able to easily access fresh, cold drinking water, often with a cup dispenser nearby for people who do not have cups or other containers for water.

There are two basic styles of water cooler. In the first, a bottled water cooler, a large bottle of water is installed in the water cooler, neck-down. When a valve is turned, water pours out of the bottle and through a spout on the front of the water cooler. Some bottled water coolers are standalone units without any cooling capabilities, while others are connected to an electrical system which powers a cooling reservoir in the water cooler, ensuring that cold water is always available.

A bottleless water cooler is hooked up to a central water system, and commonly connected to an electrical source for heating and cooling water. Bottleless water coolers are usually preferred in situations where large numbers of people need water, as changing bottles can become cumbersome and irritating. Bottleless coolers are also more likely to have extra features like ice cubes and hot water, since they are viewed as permanent fixtures, and thus wiring them into the electrical system is worth it.

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The cost of water coolers varies, depending on the type and any added features. Bottled water coolers are sometimes provided free of charge by companies which deliver bottled war as a bonus for signing up for a delivery account. Many people view a water cooler as a reasonable investment in a group environment, since it ensures that everyone has access to fresh water, and some people view a water cooler as a pleasant office perk. Water coolers may also be used to encourage people to stay hydrated and to avoid sodas and coffee.

In office environments, water coolers often turn into community gathering spots. People may use the water cooler as an excuse to take a break, and then loiter around the water cooler chatting with other people in the office. In large offices with multiple departments, people often get information through water cooler gossip, since the office is too big for employees to keep track of each other. The phrase “around the water cooler” is often used as a slang term to describe gossiping sessions, whether or not a water cooler is present.

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