Troubleshooting Your Water Cooler

Posted by
John Woodard on February 10, 2023

Water coolers are famous for their association with workplace conversation, particularly in TV shows and movies. While they are often seen as a mundane necessity in real-world office spaces, water coolers are noticed when they do not operate correctly. Many water cooler problems can be solved quickly and easily, while others may require professional assistance. Preventive maintenance can also lower the chances of expensive or time-consuming maintenance down the road. Below you can find information about common water cooler problems, how to fix them, and how to perform preventive maintenance on your water cooler system.

Common water cooler problems

Some water cooler issues can cause similar symptoms to other problems. Because of this, it is best to diagnose the problem and rule out causes one at a time.

Water cooler is leaking

Multiple problems can cause a leaking water cooler. In many cases, the water cooler itself is not leaking. Rather, the drip tray is overflowing, and the cooler appears to be leaking. If the drip tray is not overflowing, check the rear valve of the cooler. This valve may open slightly over time and can simply be closed to eliminate the leak.

If neither of these solutions stops the cooler from leaking, check the interior piping of the system. Fittings can lose their effectiveness over time and need replacement, or piping can become damaged and leak. If a fitting has lost its seal, it must be replaced. Before replacing a bad fitting, ensure that the water cooler is unplugged and that water has been removed from the system. If the cooler’s piping has sprung a leak, you will likely need the assistance of a professional to solve the problem.

Water cooler is not dispensing cold water

If water is not being cooled properly inside a water cooler, an electrical issue is most likely to blame. Before trying anything else, ensure that the cooler’s thermostat is set to the desired temperature. If the thermostat is set correctly and the water is not being cooled, check for an electrical problem with one of the following solutions.

  • Ensure that the water cooler is fully plugged in. A loose connection or accidental unplugging of the system is a simple and common cause of electricity not reaching the system.
  • Check the switches on the rear of the cooler. Confirm that they are flipped into the “on” position. If the cooler contains lights that signify its power status, ensure those are lit as well. If the switches are powered on, switch them off and unplug the system. Wait about thirty seconds, plug in the cooler, and flip the switches to the “on” position.
  • Reset the power to the water cooler. Switch the cooler off and unplug it. Wait one full day before plugging it back in. Once the cooler is powered on, check the system a few hours later to test the water temperature.

If none of these solutions resolve the problem, there is likely an issue with the cooling system itself. A professional will be needed to evaluate the system and diagnose any issues within the cooling system.

filling glass from water cooler

Water cooler is not heating

Like cold water coolers, hot water coolers or water coolers with a heating feature can fail because of a power issue. Try the above solutions to ensure that a power issue is not a cause of the problem. If none of these solutions work, confirm that the cooler is not being used so frequently that the heating system cannot keep up. If an electrical issue is not the problem and the system is not being overused, seek a professional to diagnose problems within your system.

Water cooler water tastes foul

If the water being dispensed from your water cooler has a bad taste, smell, or color, either the filter must be replaced, or the system must be cleaned. Filter cartridges should be replaced at least once every six months or when the filter reaches its maximum capacity, whichever situation comes first. If a filter has exceeded its output, it will fail to purify the water properly. This leads to contaminants messing with the taste, smell, and coloring of the water.

Another reason water can be impure inside a water cooler is the buildup of contaminants. If a water cooler is not properly cleaned, bacteria and gunk can build up over time and cause problems inside your system. A water cooler should be cleaned at least once every six months or whenever the filter cartridge is changed.

If bacteria or other microorganisms are lurking in your water cooler, consuming the water can make you sick. Pseudomonas Aeruginosa is one of the most common bacteria found in water coolers. Yeast and mold can also build up if the cooler is not cleaned appropriately. For more information on how to clean your water cooler, read our steps to cleaning a water cooler below.

How to maintain a water cooler

Preventive maintenance is the best way to avoid recurring problems with your water cooler. The following steps can help elongate the lifespan of your water cooler and protect it from contamination.

Replace filter cartridges routinely

Replacing water cooler filter cartridges is not only important for water quality, but it also prevents certain problems from arising in the cooler itself. A water cooler’s cartridge should be replaced when the volume of water it has filtered matches its change frequency. For example, the Neo-Pure K-NPQ1 filter cartridge possesses a change frequency of 1250 gallons, which should provide effective filtration for about six months. If 1250 gallons of water pass through the filter before six months is up, the cartridge should be replaced. If the change frequency is not reached within six months, the cartridge should be replaced at the six-month mark. Monitor the taste and smell of the water to see if you notice the re-emergence of warning signs like the chemical odor and aftertaste of chlorine. Water coolers servicing larger offices may require more frequent changes.

Inspect the quality of the cooler regularly

Bad fittings and piping can cause leaks to form over time. Regularly check the quality of seals and pipes to ensure smooth water flow. If you detect a fitting is going bad, unplug and empty the cooler before replacing it. Dust buildup on vents can lead to the cooling system working too hard. This can shorten the lifespan of the system drastically. If you notice dust buildup in the vents, use a vacuum or duster to clean the area.

Clean the water cooler

Cleaning a water cooler reduces the risk of particulate matter entering the water and disinfects any present bacteria. A water cooler should be cleaned at least once every six months. Cleaning your cooler each time you replace the filter is an excellent way to ensure that cleaning takes place regularly.

How to clean a cold water cooler

When cleaning your cold water cooler, ensure that no outside contaminants enter the cooler throughout the cleaning process. To combat this, only rinse the cooler with water that is safe to drink, and use cleaning products that are rated as safe to use on surfaces that come in contact with food. Disposable gloves should be worn to protect skin from cleaning chemicals and the cooler from bodily germs. When cleaning removable plastic pieces, do not use abrasive cleaners; these can cause scratches and other structural damage to the components.

  1. Unplug the water cooler. Allow the cooler to sit for at least five minutes unplugged before beginning to clean.
  2. Clean the cooler’s exterior with a hot, soapy cloth. Ensure the spigots are thoroughly cleaned, as these are the most contacted pieces of the cooler.
  3. Drain all remaining water in the cooler through the spigot and remove the empty water jug.
  4. Remove the plastic parts (except the spigots) from the cooler. These can be washed with warm soap and water. Some components may be dishwasher-safe.
  5. Prepare a solution of unscented bleach and purified water. Use 1 to 3 teaspoons of bleach per gallon of water.
  6. Fill the reservoir with cleaning solution. Immediately drain a few cups of cleaning solution through the spigots. Top off the reservoir with additional solution.
  7. Allow the cleaning solution to sit for about five minutes.
  8. Drain the solution through the spigots.
  9. Rinse the reservoir thoroughly with potable water. Drain the rinse water through the spigots.
  10. Reassemble any plastic components.
  11. Add a clean water jug to the cooler.
  12. Flush one or two cups of water through the spigots to remove any excess bleach.
  13. Plug in the cooler.

How to clean a hot water cooler

Bleach should never be used to clean a hot water cooler. Instead, boiling water should be used to disinfect the system.

  1. Boil enough water to fill the reservoir.
  2. Clean the cooler’s exterior with a hot, soapy cloth. Ensure the spigots are thoroughly cleaned, as these are the most contacted pieces of the cooler.
  3. Fill the reservoir with boiling water. Use caution when filling the reservoir. Avoid causing splashes that could lead to burns.
  4. Immediately drain one or two cups of boiling water from the spigots. Top off the reservoir with boiling water.
  5. Allow the boiling water to sit for about three minutes.
  6. Use a soft-bristled brush to scrub the interior of the reservoir.
  7. Drain the water through the spigots.
  8. Rinse the reservoir with potable water. Ensure that the reservoir is rinsed thoroughly before the cooler is used.

Can I clean a water cooler with vinegar?

Distilled white vinegar can be used as a substitute for bleach when cleaning a water cooler, but it will not be as effective at killing bacteria. If you choose to use white vinegar, add one part vinegar for every three parts water in the cooler. Both bleach and vinegar are both effective cleaning solutions for your water cooler if the systems are scrubbed and rinsed properly. However, bleach is generally a more effective option. Note that vinegar and bleach should never be mixed, as they create toxic chlorine gas. Ensure that you clean your water cooler with either bleach or vinegar, but never both together.



If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

No comments yet.
Leave a comment