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Just moved into a new house that uses in-wall electric heaters. Sooner or later, we'll be switching to a heat pump, but until then, I need these as it's getting cold.

Our first floor has two heaters connected to one thermostat. One runs fine, but the other keeps shutting off requiring that I take the front panel off and push in the reset button.

If I reset it, place the cover back, it runs fine for about 10 minutes then trips off.

If I reset it but don't place the cover back, it runs just fine and never trips off.

What is the cover doing that could be causing this unit to keep tripping off?

UPDATE:

I'm giving Ed the credit as his theory seems to fit the solution I came up with: I flipped the vent cover over.

The cover on it had all the fins pointing down. However, this heater wasn't the same as the other heater with the same cover...which seemed specifically designed for this cover. So, on a whim, I just spun the cover 180 degrees so the fins slanted up and the heater hasn't tripped since. Seems as if the upward fins allow more of the heat to get pushed out preventing the heat trip.

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    Is the unit getting overly hot before it trips, or is it tripping out on some sort of overcurrent or ground fault protection? – ThreePhaseEel Nov 26 '15 at 7:09
  • What is the make and model of the unit? – Tester101 Nov 26 '15 at 13:33
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    Turn off the breaker feeding it, take off the cover, and use a vacuum cleaner on it. – Ecnerwal Nov 26 '15 at 15:13
  • @ThreePhaseEel I have no idea. How would one figure that out? – DA01 Nov 26 '15 at 18:01
  • @Tester101 No idea. I can't find a label on it anywhere that indicates manufacturer or model. – DA01 Nov 26 '15 at 18:02
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My experiace with these is the fan is not pushing enough air, thus the overheat after several minutes, taking the cover off actually created a higher fire danger since the airflow is not being directed across the coils . With the power off spin the fan if it stops in less than 5 seconds the motor needs oil, a light penetrating oil like WD40 will help if you can get it on the bearing (these are usually "oillite" bearings) these are sleeve made out of prosper bronze and a fiber material to hold the oil. Your goal is to lube the bearings without getting any on the heat coils, once oiled it may take a few minutes for any gunk to clear but the fan will run faster move more air and your reset won't trip, these little motors last for years without maintenance and many I find are frozen the above fix has lasted for years for most, there is not a fire hazard if these do seize as they are impedance protected

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  • When this fan is running, it's actually the quietest unit. The fan seems well lubricated but will investigate. Thanks for the tip! – DA01 Nov 26 '15 at 18:03
  • I'm marking this as the correct answer because it seems to hold up to my solution fairly well. I'll update my question with the solution. – DA01 Nov 30 '15 at 17:08
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What is the cover doing that could be causing this unit to keep tripping off?

The cover is holding in heat and the reset you are pushing is tripped by heat. Usually, the reset trips because the unit is drawing too much current which creates heat in the thermal trip device.

Is there anything blocking air flow to the unit? The heater needs air to flow freely otherwise it could overheat and trip out.

If it is tripping out without anything blocking air flow this means the heating coil is not functioning properly or the thermal unit is faulty.

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  • Nothing is blocking the unit. It is creating heat, though...at least when it's running sans cover. – DA01 Nov 26 '15 at 18:04

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