The Economics of Bottled Water vs Filtered Systems

Should you invest in bottled water or a filtered system? It’s a simple question with no easy answer. There’s convenience to consider, cleanliness, the environment, etc. But if you’re looking at it from a purely economic standpoint (which most business owners are), it’s all a simple question of consumption and cost.

Here’s a breakdown of the potential costs of bottled water vs various filtered systems, and a final verdict on the most economical option.

Potential Costs of Bottled Water

The cost of bottled water depends on how much you consume and how you buy it. There are 3 different ways to provide bottled water for your office or home:

  • Buy individual bottles or packs of water from the store

Individual bottles of water can cost equivalent cost per litre greater than $3, maybe a bit less if you buy them in bulk, significantly higher than the cost of fuel. Buying packs of water from the grocery store might work for a small family, but are completely economically infeasible for businesses or organizations.

  • Refill water cooler bottles at the grocery store

This is a cheaper option. You do however have to pay for the jugs themselves and deal with transporting them to and from your workplace. It’s not really practical for a busy office or business. There is a significant cost to the business in time and effort.

  • Have bulk water bottles delivered.

The bigger your business, the more important it is to get the strategy right, not just to comply with health and safety, but importantly to keep the workforce hydrated, happy and productive. becomes to provide everyone with fresh drinking water. While the water itself is cheaper than single bottles , you have to deal with regular ordering, deliveries, storage and heavy lifting. Water deliveries also may be infrequent, requiring your business to purchase and store a large number of bottles, which deteriorate in UV light from the moment they are bottled, as there is no chlorine as in the tap water supply.

Potential Costs of Filtered Systems

On the surface, Filtered Water Systems appear to be the logical choice. But they also require maintenance, cleaning, and replacement parts that can be costly. Here’s a breakdown of your filtered systems and potential associated costs:

  • High-end carbon filter POU plumbed-in dispenser

High-end solid block activated carbon filters can cost $1500 or more to purchase. They have huge chilling tanks, and can also provide hot water. They also require cartridge replacements recommended twice a year, or more frequently if many people use the system. Replacement parts are expensive depending on the system, however this is by far the most popular and up-to-date option in today’s green economy. Most businesses going this route contract a supplier to supply the unit on a low fixed cost rental, including full servicing. The equivalent cost can be as low as $12 per week and some companies offer completely free set-up by a licensed plumber.

  • Reverse Osmosis

Reverse osmosis systems are very expensive and complex. The numerous filter stages are costly in replacement filters The systems remove chlorine and all impurities however the downside is the water wastage, with 4 litres of water used to produce just 1 litre drinkable. It also requires monitoring of the membrane cartridge and replacement when not effective. These systems are more suited to specialist environments, dental practices, etc.

  • Refillable pour-through GAC filter

Many people are attracted to the low cost of pour-through filter bottles, that have a filter placed in a refillable bottle sitting on the chiller. There are however many poor quality cheap units on the market. The compressor can easily fail on the chilling unit and replacement filters to fit the bottle can quickly become unavailable. The cheap option as we know if often not the best! The filter life is short and an office full of people relying on one such filter can quickly result in staff complaints.

Bottled or Filtered: The Final Verdict

How much money you spend on bottled vs filtered water really depends on the system you use and how much water your organization consumes. In the long run, filtered systems will always eventually become more cost-effective because you’re not paying for the water itself.

Here’s a graph that shows the fixed cost of a Fully Serviced POU water dispenser v’s bulk bottled water delivery. Based on the variable cost of between 2 and 6 bottles per week (for a larger business) at $11 per bottle v’s only $12 per week fixed cost for a POU serviced dispenser.

For year one, the cheapest option is:

  • POU Filtered Dispenser

Wrapping up

Bottled water looks a lot more like an office luxury, as it turns out just about any filtered system is a better choice economically. This is all without mentioning the hassle of buying, transporting and storing bottled water and the health and safety issues of cleaning a bottled water dispenser. The trend now is definitely towards choosing a fully serviced filtered dispenser from a specialist service company. Smarter Water can help you with water coolers in Brisbane and surrounds.

Bottled water has its benefits. There’s low risk for contamination by bacteria, no need to pay for maintenance and replacement parts, and a lot of people think it tastes great. But if you’re looking at the question from an economic standpoint (like most people are), a high-end filtered system is the right choice for long-term use.

Health & Safety Compliance: How Clean is Your Water Cooler?

Water coolers are always set up with the best of intentions: to provide offices, schools and even your home a safe, cold source of drinking water. And while water coolers and filters seem like the cleanest way to drink, it really all boils down to our own setup and handling of the system.

Set up your water cooler the wrong way and/or neglect the system entirely, and you could be better off drinking straight from the tap in the office kitchen. Here’s what you need to know about keeping your water cooler clean.

Work Environment Regulations

If you’re providing a water cooler in a public place, there are certain regulations you need to comply to. According to Safe Work Australia Code of Practice for Managing the Work Environment and Facilities, drinking water should be:

  • Provided free of charge for workers at all time,
  • Positioned where it can be easily accessed by workers
  • Close to where hot or strenuous work is being undertaken to reduce the likelihood of dehydration or heat stress
  • Separate from toilet or washing facilities to avoid contamination of the drinking water

The drinking water should also be chilled at or below 24 degrees Celsius. This can be achieved by:

  • Refrigerating the water or providing non-contaminated ice
  • Shading water pipes and storage containers from the sun

Water should be supplied in a hygienic manner, so that workers do not drink directly from a shared container. This may involve:

  • A drinking fountain, where the water is delivered in an upward jet
  • A supply of disposable or washable drinking containers.

What’s the big takeaway from these regulations? You need to provide water, make it easy to access and keep it cool. A water cooler can help with this. But “supplying it in a hygienic manner” is the one part where many go astray.

Positioning your water dispensers

Positioning and setup are everything if you want to provide clean drinking water for your business. Place your water cooler in a central location where it can easily be accessed by everyone. Don’t put it near a toilet area and never position your water dispenser where the bottle can be exposed to direct sunlight.

Make sure your water dispenser has a drain or drip tray to catch overflowing water and avoid fall hazards from slippery floors. To avoid contamination from water containers, provide disposable cups or cones for users at all times.

One solution to this potential issue is to use plumbed in water coolers. They pump in a direct chilled water supply and avoid issues with bottle rotation.

Cleaning and maintaining your water cooler

Plumbed In Floor Standing

Water dispensers must be cleaned and given proper maintenance to avoid contamination with harmful bacteria, such as E.Coli. One study of water dispensers in the UK found that more than a quarter of them showed bacterial contamination. Dirty water dispensers can lead to an entire office of people going home sick with stomach problems.

You should always clean your water coolers based on the guidelines of the manufacturer, preferably using a broad-spectrum sanitizer. If connected to a tap, this should also be cleaned weekly with a mild detergent. Remember those drip trays you have set up to keep water off the floor? Those should be wiped dry every day to avoid bacterial buildup. Regularly check your water coolers for dust buildup inside the container or in the air ventilation grills.

To ensure your water cooler isn’t neglected, you can make a schedule for regular cleaning, and assign responsibility to someone in your office with knowledge of proper cleaning measures.

Though the best strategy to avoid error and further contamination is to have an agreement with the manufacturer to provide cleaning and maintenance services for the life of the product.

Cleaning, maintenance and filter replacement for filtered systems are provided as part of the standard service for Smarter Waters’ water coolers. Filters are rated for 5000 litres and are replaced twice per year when the system is also fully sanitised with a hand-held steamer.

If you go on holiday or leave the system without using it for more than a week, you should always drain out the remaining water once you return. Never leave a filtered water system without water, as the filter will dry out.

Wrapping up

Keeping your water cooler clean can seem like a simple task. Wipe it down with a sanitizer, what could be easier? But what about the important water contact parts inside?

But in reality, for a business you are focussing on your work. The cleaning and maintenance needs of your water cooler really should be in the hands of a professional service company like Smarter Water. Yes, the safest bet to ensure your water cooler stays clean is to enlist the help of professionals giving you the peace-of-mind that you are drinking from a healthy system.