Rheem Gas Water Heater - Model 42V40-40F
Is this one of the models with a sealed combustion chamber (gasket and glass viewing window on the hatch cover)?
The air intake damper may have triggered. Then the burner and pilot light used up all the oxygen in the combustion chamber. (After several hours, some fresh air will infiltrate.)
You will need an experienced person to reset it, possibly needing a part with a small glass bulb similar to some fire sprinkler heads.
Using or leaking chemicals and cleaning fluids in the basement can trigger the water heater air damper.
Most likely the burner and gas valve and thermocouple and aquastat and other "mechanical" parts are/were okay. The serviceman should clean the burner while he is there.
"Things" should not be "stored" against the water heater. This could block the combustion air inlets.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 12-04-2012 at 08:21 AM.