0-10V Control Systems


Before digital control systems, most remote control of lighting dimmers was done using an wire per dimmer system. Each dimmer had a dedicated control wire (or pair of wires). Low voltage DC control systems became the choice for many systems because of it’s safety and flexibility. Many different low voltage systems were used (0..10V,0..15V,0..24V,0..-10V, etc.) were used. Over the time 0 to 10V became the most common.

Zero voltage is considered off and full control voltage was considered full on. Today 0 to 10V system is also used for other control applications than lighting also (for example motor control).

Electrical specifications


The output of the controller shall be a steady DC voltage. When the control level is constant, the putput shall not change by more than +/-20mV. The output shall vary between 0 and 10 volts. Zero voltage represents off condition and ten volts is full on. The output voltage shall never be less than -0.5V and nor more than +10.50V. Output voltage levels are to be measured with a load of 20 kohm.

Passive controllers, with unbuffered outputs, shall use potentiometers with a resistance value of 10K ohms or less (=output impedance of 5 kohms or less). Active controllers with buffered outputs must have an output impedance of 100 ohms or less and be capable of continuously sourcing at least 2.0 milliamperes.

Controllers and output devices shall be provided with a blocking diode (or similar circuit) such that each output presents an open circuit to any source voltage of more than itself. The blocking diodes allow multiple controllers or outputs to be paralled to control the same dimmers or receivers on a highest takes precedence basis.

It is recommended that controllers and output devices have current limiting on all outputs such that they are not damaged by short circuits to signal common. The control signal and all control connector pins shall be isolated from AC mains (line and neutral). It is encouraged that the control signa be isolated from earth ground.

Dimmers and other receivers

Dimmer or other receiving device must produce an output condition corresponding to off with 0V input control voltage level and to full with 10V input control voltage level. The device must be capable of accepting any voltage between -0.5V and +15V withou damage. Voltage higher than +15V shall cause the device to remain at full on.

The input impedance of a dimmer or other receiving device shall be a nominal 100 Kohms (+/-20%). One controller output can be connected to multiple inputs, so the controller can see mugh lower inpedances than 100 kohms. Note: Prior ESTA E1.3 specification the input impedances of the dimmers varied widely.

Performance specifications

Off condition

Zero volts is considered the off condition. When dimmer receives zero volt input signal, it should turn it’s output off (there can be some idle voltage if defined on dimmer itself). In case of motion control, the receiver should position itself at one extreme. In case of speed or rate control, the receiver should set speed to minimum or stopped. In case of audio volume zero voltage could be off or maximum attenuation.

Note that when a console or other sending device is powered down or disconnected, it sends zero voltage to all receivers. The off condition of a receiver should always be a safe condition.

On condition

Ten volts is considered on condition. When a controller is sending a level od 100% or full, it should place ten volts on the output. When dimmer receives 10V input, it should turn its output fully on (can be less than full line voltage if maximum is defined so on dimmer). In the case of motion control, the receiver should position itself at the opposite position form off. A rate or speed control should go to it’s fastest speed.


The 0 to 10V control is intended to be linear. The output of a receiver should be half when it receives 5V control voltage. A dimmer at half may bring lamp to half intensity or output at half it’s maximum voltage (in productions the response curve form control voltage to lamp intensity should be defined).

Note: Analogue controllers which do not have buffered outputs can cause linearity of the controller to vary depending on the loading of the output.


Dimmers or receiving devices shall use connectors with male contacts (pins). Controllers or sending devices shall use connectors with female contacts (sockets). If suitable connectors are not available in both sexes, the same connector may be used on dimmers and controllers (typical 8-pin DIN).

Pinout of all control connectors shall be labeled adjacent to connector showing all pin assignments. Where possible, pin numbers should equal channel number and highest pin number should be used as signal common.

No voltages higher than 30V may be present at a sending or receiving connector. Power supply pins when present at connectors should be current limited. If a power supply is required, then the necessary voltage, current and polarity should be indicated.


0 to 10V cables can be almost any type of conductor or cable.

10V control in architechtural lighting

10V control voltage is also used for controlling indoor lighting systems. There are dimmers and dimmable fluorescent ballasts for this kind of application available.

The basic idea in this type of applications is similar to theatrical lighting. Typically the control voltage input is electrically isolated from the dimmer or lighting fixture.

The typical control voltage range in this kind of lighting applications is either 0-10V or 1-10V.


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