Many gas powervent water heaters use electronic ignition instead of a pilot light to ignite the burner. In the past few years (this being 2010), I had a few State Brand Gas Powervent Water Heaters that I installed have warranty problems.Gas Water Heater Hot Surface Ignitor Troubleshooting Each time, I showed up to the cold water heater, and tried to reset it, but it would end up in lockout. The State and AO Smith gas power vented hot water heater uses a sophisticated electronic control, with an LED troubleshooting computer, and LED troubleshooting guide in the manual.
Faulty Hot Surface Ignitors from AO Smith, State, American, USCraftmaster water heaters.
Both times, the problem ended up being a faulty hot surface ignitor. It was difficult to detect, because when the electronic ignition system would start, everything would seem to function normally. The hot surface ignitor would glow hot, the blower fan would turn on, the system would go through its gas safety checks, the gas would come on, but it would not ignite!? I ended up having to order a new hot surface ignitor, because although the faulty original ignitor would glow hot, it wasn’t reaching a hot enough temperature to ignite the gas!
The LED control is pretty handy, in that you cane look up the troubleshooting code that the LED pattern shows when the water heater ignition malfunctions. In the back of the manual, the list of codes corresponds with the problem that occurred with ignition and the tests to preform to troubleshoot the exact cause of the problem. If you can;t find the original manual that came with your State or AO smith power vent gas water heater, they can ordered or downloaded in .PDF format as long as you know the model number of your particular water heater.
The test that finally revealed this to me was a ohm resistance test performed on the hot surface ignitor itself. This is done easily by removing the two wires that connect the ignitor to the electronic control, and then doing your ohm test using the two wires.
My guess is that the hot surface ignitors are manufactured with a defective design, because both times this happened to me, the water heaters were less than a single year old and they should be designed to last a l LOT longer than that!