Let's digress a bit. A fridge works by compressing a gas (CFC), which heats up as it is pressurized. This hot gas is then routed through coils, usually under your fridge (older units had the coils on the back, even older ones had coils on top) where some of the heat dissipates into the surrounding air. The gas then goes through an expansion valve. Expanding on the other side and cooling down considerably it is then sent through your fridge. How much it cools down is related to the level of pressure, the makeup/quality of the gas, and how much heat is removed in the coils.
If you think about it, having a bunch of hot coils right under your cold fridge seems backwards, since the heat rises causing the fridge to warm up, which means the compressor runs more, generates more heat, and on and on. That's where the fan comes in, it draws cooler room air from the front of your fridge, through the coils, across the compressor, and then blows the heated air into the room. That is why clean coils, a clean front vent, and the back panel is so integral to efficient operation. The back panel seals the bottom compartment, ensuring air can only come through the coils. Take the back panel off and very little air is pulled through the coils, making the fridge run longer and more often.
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