About a month ago I decided to replace a leaky bathtub fixture in one of my bathrooms. When I pulled the old one out I noticed there were several pieces of white plastic stuck in the valve. Not chunks of broken plastic... it was more like thin sheets of white plastic. Having no idea what it was I went ahead and put in the new valve. Within minutes it started leaking so I pulled it back out and sure enough there was more little sheets of white plastic jamming the valve open. Right about this same time I started noticing that the full-on hot water would only last about the length of one shower whereas it was never an issue before. There was always plenty of hot water before. I did some research and asked around to friends and the general agreement seems to be the dip tube was made of plastic and has disintegrated. This is a Rheem water heater with a Mfg date of 1996. The house was built in 1997 and I have confirmed with the previous owners it is the original water heater. Apparently, back then they made the dip tubes out of plastic? So, thinking I would do the "smart" thing and save some money I ordered a water heater with installation from Lowe's yesterday. A lady from Lowe's called me to let me know the heater had to be special ordered and would be shipping directly from "American Water Heater's" and would arrive on the 23rd of this month. Thinking I ordered a Whirlpool I did some research and luckily found this site. Long story short... I got worried about the Whirlpool and first thing this morning I called Lowe's and cancelled the order. Then I called a local plumbing company and talked to them. The guy didn't really seem to want to talk about the "Whirlpool issue" since they don't even carry that brand. Fair enough. I requested a Bradford White and it is set to be installed next week. Here's my question... the heater I'm getting is only a 6-Year water heater. I asked the plumber (who was really patient and friendly) if I should get a 12-year and he basically said that a 12-year heater is really nothing but a 6-Year heater with a different sticker on it. In other words, you're just buying an extended warranty. There is no physical difference in the heaters. Do folks here agree with that?