Refrigerators need plenty of air circulation so that the unit can work correctly to keep the foods inside cold or frozen. When the refrigerator is located in an area with little to no air circulation, the unit will use more energy and may not keep the food at the correct temperature.
Adequate clearance for good air circulation for a normal refrigerator will help the refrigerator operate correctly. The distance from the sides of the refrigerator to a wall or any other object must be at least 1/8 of an inch. The distance from the back of the refrigerator and the top of the unit to the wall or a cabinet must be at least 1 inch.
When choosing a location with the needed clearances for placing the refrigerator, you need to consider the temperatures in the area. Temperatures around the refrigerator should not be any lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit or any warmer than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If temperatures are too cold, the unit will not run often enough. If the temperatures are too warm, the refrigerator will run more often and waste more energy.
Air circulation helps keep the temperature around the refrigerator ideal for operating the unit. If you place the refrigerator right up against the wall, the warm air from the refrigerator compressor has nowhere to escape. The temperature around the unit will rise as the compressor keeps running. When the refrigerator has enough distance from the wall, the warm air from the compressor has a way to move away from the unit and into the room.
Effects on Food Safety
Safe food storage has everything to do with the operating temperature of the refrigerator. If you don't have the distance needed from the wall or cabinets, the warm air is trapped around the unit, which will make it run more often while trying to keep the internal temperature correct. Although the unit will run more often when warm, it may not be able to maintain an interior temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the refrigerator and 0 degrees Fahrenheit in the freezer for safe food storage.