There is a constant debate over whether to use pressure coolers or bottled coolers in today’s commercial environments. While both offer benefits, bottled coolers rely on the regular delivery of 5-gallon water bottles from a local water dealer. Most water dealers are reputable and will supply good-quality water; you do, however, have to store the 40-pound bottles and handle them regularly.With pressure water coolers, however, there is no storing or handling of heavy bottles. The pressure cooler delivers a constant supply of chilled water from the building’s water system. Most municipal water systems deliver good-quality drinking water: If there is concern with the quality of the water supply, many cooler models offer sophisticated filter systems that not only remove taste and odor, but also eliminate lead and cysts (such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia), as well as chlorine. There are even filter monitors available to alert facilities professionals when the filter needs to be changed.Maintenance of a pressure cooler is relatively simple. You have to keep the basin and bubbler areas clean, just as you do the sinks and faucets in your building. You can do this by using a mild detergent; however, since most cleaners contain chlorides, be sure to thoroughly rinse the basin to remove any cleanser – chlorides can cause pitting of the stainless steel surface. Mild surface damage can usually be cleaned with an abrasive cleaner and a standard scouring pad. At least once per year, you should open the cooler and remove dust and debris from the condenser: Cleaning the condenser will allow the unit to run more efficiently and prolong the life of the compressor. Many coolers come with an inlet screen to keep waterline debris out of the unit as well. This screen should be checked during initial start-up and any time water flow appears to be restricted.Recently, focus groups were held in three major cities to gain insight into the water cooler industry (the focus groups involved end-users, architects, engineers, and contractors). Results from these studies revealed that, second to water filtration, the desire to have hands-free operation is extremely important: Just picture a mother with her baby and a shopping bag in tow, trying to get a drink at a water cooler. The popularity of plumbing products with hands-free operation has led to the development of water coolers with infrared electronic sensors. Today’s infrared sensors are light-years ahead of the earlier units: With pulsed light sources and electrical filters, they are very reliable and effective.Plumbing contractors, building owners, and facilities managers, as well as engineers and architects, are responsible for the quality of water dispensed from the products they specify or install. Because of this, offering water coolers and drinking fountains that meet all the requirements of NSF/ANSI 61 (from NSF Intl. and the American National Standards Institute) has become very important.While time and innovation can often lead to obsolescence, there will always be a need for clean drinking water. Consequently, the prime directive for the water cooler industry is – and always will be – to provide the best products possible for dispensing clean water to the public.Al Huneycutt is vice president of marketing and sales at Oak Brook, IL-based Halsey Taylor (www.halseytaylor.com), a leading manufacturer of water coolers and drinking fountains. Huneycutt’s experience in the plumbing industry spans more than 40 years, including more than 25 years with Halsey Taylor.