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Internal Vs. External Refrigerator Water Dispensers

Before you buy a new fridge, consider whether you want an internal or an external refrigerator water dispenser.

Internal Vs. External Refrigerator Water Dispensers

A water dispenser in your refrigerator gives you cold water on tap at all times of the day or night.  All major refrigerator manufacturers, such as Samsung, Sub-Zero, LG and Frigidaire, have models with water dispensers, which sometimes also dispense ice.

Some of the top-of-the-line models even offer sparkling water.  When choosing a refrigerator, you should consider whether you want an internal or external water dispenser.

An internal water dispenser is located inside the refrigerator, typically at the very top, and can only be accessed by opening the door, while an external water dispenser provides water and/or ice through the refrigerator door. 


Water Dispenser Aesthetics

The main difference between internal and external refrigerator water dispensers is appearance.  Obviously, you can see the external dispenser.

Many people choose an internal dispenser because they prefer the sleek look of a completely smooth refrigerator door. 


Water Dispenser Functionality

Convenience and energy savings are two advantages of an external refrigerator water dispenser.  You don't need to open a door or flip a switch to use an external dispenser, so it couldn't be easier.

This also saves energy, because opening the refrigerator door to use an internal dispenser lets warm air into the machine, which the refrigerator's compressor must drive out to bring the temperature back to normal.  If you have children using the internal dispenser regularly, this may result in the door staying open for significant lengths of time.

Many models with internal water dispensers do not dispense ice, although a select few do such as Sub-Zero.  If a convenient ice dispenser is a priority for you, going for an external water dispenser gives you more models to choose from.


Water Dispenser Maintenance

An external water dispenser may produce more mess because it has more parts, such as a tray.  However, the tray is easy to remove and clean.

On the other hand, an internal dispenser may be messier if you have children using it regularly.  Depending on the exact location of the internal dispenser, there may be more pouring spills.

If you want to fill large containers with water or ice, an internal dispenser may ease the process because you typically don't have the space restrictions of an external dispenser. 

Both internal and external dispensers may need repairs at some point.  They may leak, freeze up and stop working.

An internal water dispenser may be better suited to a household with children since they can’t play with the settings and use it improperly.  However, the controls on many external dispensers include a locking function, letting adults lock the dispenser and keep it safe from small children.

By weighing the pros and cons of internal water dispensers and external water dispensers, you will be able to work out what the most suitable choice is for you and your family. 

About the Author

Claire has been writing and editing for 18 years. She has written for many digital home publications, including Apartment Therapy, Good Housekeeping, Buzzfeed and Architectural Digest.