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Troubleshoot air supply for gas water heater

Image of Bradford white air intake
Bradford White water heaters
Back to 10 things for troubleshooting water heater
1) Incoming air supply
Water heater must have enough air to support combustion.

Well-insulated house or closed doors can prevent adequate air from reaching water heater.
Very hot attic will cause oxygen molecules to spread too far apart to support combustion.

AO Smith and 3-legged water heaters have air intake located on bottom of heater (install heater on 3 bricks to elevate space under heater), Bradford White (pictured) has air intake on side.
Do not install gas water heater in small contained area, use louvered doors, do not pile belongings around water heater. Get fresh air to water heater and see if problem is resolved.
close up water heater air intake
AO Smith air intake on bottom of heater shown
Back to 10 things for troubleshooting water heater
2) Air supply getting to burner
Air intake must be clean. If intake is blocked, the combustion flame is yellow and lazy instead of crisp and blue. Water heater might not stay lit.
See manual for location of air intake.
Do not install water heater in dusty environment.
Avoid dusty environment that will clog air intake, cause unburned fuel, and create fire hazard.
Some FV designs can trip if the air intake is clogged.

Dirty, dusty and chemical environments pose hazards for all gas appliances. Water heater air intake will clog, and shut down burner or cause FV lockout in some models.
Whirlpool shown.

Larger image
Location of AO Smith/ American/ Kenmore/Whirlpool 3-legged water heater with arrestor screen that will clog with dust. 
Flame trap inspection
Inspect and Clean air intake on AO Smith, State, American, Reliance, Whirlpool water heaters using feather duster or compressed air.
Flame trap inspection mirror at Amazon
Bradford White, Rheem, Richmond, Ruud, GE heaters require removal of combustion parts to clean arrestor screen located inside unit.
Remove combustion parts for maintenance.
Image of Bradford white air intake

Flame trap inspection mirror at Amazon
Flame should burn clear blue
Lazy yellow flame indicates one or more of following:
-Poor incoming air supply.
-Inadequate venting.
-Dirty combustion parts.
-Low gas pressure
Ventilate attic
Very hot attic causes oxygen molecules to spread too far apart to support pilot light.
Increase ventilation to water heater
Attic ventilation/ pilot outage pdf
14 things needed for gas water heater & .pdf resources
What you need for operation of gas water heater.
General troubleshoot
1) Basic parts and operation
2) Adequate incoming air supply ... issues: closed doors, tightly insulated house, very hot attic.
3) Adequate air supply getting to burner... issues: dirty vent screen, dirty environment, maintenance.
4) Thermal cutoff  ... TCO ... issues: failed part, maintenance, vent.

5) Flammable vapor lockout .... issues: exposure to vapors, bad FV sensor, failed FV system,
6) Fuel supply to gas valve thermostat ... natural gas and propane are different ... issues: wrong gas, low pressure, moisture in pipe, undersized gas meter, supply line too small for BTU rating.
7) Gas valve thermostat regulates fuel supply ... issues: not enough gas, failed thermostat, failed gas control valve.

8) Fuel supply from thermostat to burner ... issues: maintenance, thermocouple-thermopile, gas control valve.
9) Clean and replace burner ... issue: periodic maintenance requires burner inspection, cleaning, and possible replacement

10) Functioning thermopile-thermocouple-pilot light ... issues: misalignment, failure of part.
11) Ignition of fuel supply by pilot light or hot surface igniter ... issues: pilot light, piezo igniter, electrode.

12) Power vent water heater troubleshoot ... issues: pressure switch, blower, blower sequence from gas control, outlet polarity
13) Venting combustion byproduct .... issues: vent in disrepair, other vents in house drawing air

14) Misc troubleshoot manuals
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