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Can a single phase appliance (Australian 230 V) be wired directly to a three phase socket using a single active plus the neutral wire? If not why?

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Typically yes, you can run a single phase load from a three-phase service.

An issue would be if it is a line-to-line load or a line-to-neutral load, and whether a neutral is present. Another thing is to make sure the voltage is correct for the application, and whether a high-leg is present (not sure if this applies in your area).

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    I don't think Aussies have high-leg delta (or any delta at the point of use) -- their system is the European-style 230Y/415V, AIUI. Sep 10 '15 at 15:31

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