First question here. Hope I get the terminology correct.
We have a three switch panel in our living room. Position 1 is a 3-way switch that toggles lights on the underside of a covered patio. Power is supplied by a circuit that controls the patio and a small nook off our kitchen. The other 3-way switch is about 40 feet away in a bedroom off the kitchen. We have never known what the switches at position 2 and 3 do, for years.
Clearing away some foliage in preparation for house painting, we discover an outdoor box with a screw in flood light receptacle. I put a bulb in and discover that the switch on position 2 toggles the light. I would like to put a timer on this light, so I decide to check out the switch to make sure it is a two-pole and to see whether I need a timer with a neutral. I turn off the breaker that controls the patio lights, but the flood light stays on. I basically have to go through the entire box to find the breaker for the floodlight. It's the kitchen breaker, which is weird but I guess I can kind of see how they did it.
Ok, so I turn off both breakers and take off the cover. I stick my voltage meter in and, surprise, position 3 is hot! At this point, I turn off the house power at the panel. I look behind the switches to see what I can see, but I decide I don't want to mess with it. I put the cover back on. After much experimentation, I find that position three toggles the bottom plug on a two-plug receptacle in the living room, which is fed by power on a different circuit. The top plug has continuous power. I have no need for a switched outlet in this room.
When I looked behind the switches, I couldn't see very well, but from what I could see, none of the switches are grounded. The box is metal. I don't think it is grounded. It looks as though all 6 ground wires were capped under one nut. I think the bundle is making contact with the box, but I could not see it screwed to the box. Maybe it is. It also looked as though there was a bundle of neutrals, presumably from more than one circuit.
What can I do with this mess? I probably need a pro, but I'm curious what my options are. In a three-gang metal box, do all three circuits need to be separately ground? Is it ok to combine neutrals? Is three circuits in one box even permitted?
If I decide to take out the switch for the plug in the room, can I simply splice the circuit back together and keep it in the box, or do I need to pull the romex and terminate in the box? Or something else. I haven't looked at the plug device to see what's going on back there.
I guess put more simply, all I care about having at the wall here is the 3-way for the patio lights and a timer for the newly-discovered flood. What are my options?