Water Heater Flue Baffle

Put in a new Reliance water heater that worked fine for about 6 months until the pilot light started going out frequently. It also started to make sizzling nosies that seemed to be coming from the top of the tank, so I pulled the flue baffle to see what I could see, and the problem went away- pilot light stays lit and no more sizzling.
Can anybody tell me what's going on here?
I guess that the combustion water was condensing on the baffle and falling back down onto the burner and tripping the thermal cutoff switch, but why did it take 6 months for the problem to appear? What are the consequences of running the water heater without the flue baffle in place?
The flue is vented into the same brick chimney that every other water heater that was ever installed in this building, and the air flow is good- I can feel the warm air being sucked up the chimney when the vent pipe is off. The water heater is located in the corner of a 12 x 15 kitchen next to the porch door, so I think it's getting enough replacement air.
There does seem to be some rusty patches on top of the tank near the anode rod and the flue, but I don't see any water.
Can anybody out there in home repair land give me a clue about my baffling flue baffle??
Thanks in advance.
Alex
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<Alex> wrote in message

Have you checked the flue itself? The description sounds to me like an obstruction in the pipe.
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Condensation dripping on the burner and sizzling is not uncommon especially when the burner first lights. The baffle helps more of the heat energy be absorbed by the water, cooling the exhaust more, and increasing the condensation. The problem may be occurring now because of cooler weather or some other minor change in the conditions. The condensation should not effect the burner or pilot so there may be something slightly out of place. The pilot flame may be burning a little too low. If there is draft in the chimney from other appliances that may be cooling the vent pipe when the heater is off and increasing the tendency for condensation. Removing the baffle, although it solves the problem, is not a good idea. Don't know if any of this will help but it is about all I can think of. Don Young <Alex> wrote in message

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