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How to Troubleshoot a GE SmartShield Sensor System

Meredith Jameson

The GE SmartShield sensor system is used with the company’s hot water heaters and uses sensors to automatically turn off the water heater if flammable vapors are present. The system also closes the combustion chamber if this occurs, preventing any spills or vapors from escaping.

In addition, the sensor system brings air into the appliance up off the floor and away from dust, and has baffles in the airflow path to prevent accumulation of dust or lint. Troubleshooting hot water systems with this sensor system may help you if you are experiencing difficulties with the unit.

  1. Avoid blocking the base of the GE water heater if the sensors do not seem to be functioning but the water heater has power. Keep the path of the sensor clean. The sensor is located under the sediment trap and the thermostatic gas valve. Make sure that the catch pan is out of the path of the flammable vapor sensor.

  2. Wait 30 minutes or more if the SmartShield sensor system has activated before trying to reactivate power to the machine if the water heater shuts down automatically or the error light flashes seven times with a three-second pause. The wait time will allow the vapors to pass out of the system and from the cement around the water heater. Check for possible gasoline, paints, stains, solvents, bleach or other chemicals, cleaners or substances in the area that might trip the sensors, and remove them as needed. Turn the “On/Off” switch, which is located on the gas control valve, to turn the system back on.

  3. Flush out the GE water heater system if the sensors are operating erratically. Lift up on the temperature pressure release valve handle, and let the water drain into a large bucket or open drain. Once several gallons have drained, close the temperature pressure valve and allow several hours for the tank to refill.

  4. Contact GE to have the sensor replaced if errors continue when there are no chemicals or other vapors near the water heater, or the error flashes repeatedly.


If the sensor system shuts off the water heater and there are no obvious chemical solvents or vapors nearby that caused the problem, leave the area for at least 30 minutes before attempting to resolve the situation. If gas is detected, turn off the water heater and leave the home. Contact your gas company for help.